Enrico Mattei

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Enrico Mattei (right) with the MP Francesco Salerno

Enrico Mattei (born April 29, 1906 in Acqualagna , † October 27, 1962 in Bascapè ) was an Italian manager at the head of the 1953 founded state oil company Eni . He was killed in an airplane accident in 1962.


The son of a carabiniere became the head of a small company at the age of 20, left the brands at the age of 30 and went to Milan , where he successfully represented a chemical company that supplied the Italian army. He later joined the Resistancea and became a well-known partisan and head of the Catholic resistance movement in Italy. He represented the Democrazia Cristiana in the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale (CLN; National Liberation Committee).

In 1945 the CLN appointed him to head Agip , the national oil company founded by the fascists , in order to close it down immediately. However, Mattei worked hard to restructure the company and turn it into one of the most important industrial companies in his country.

In 1949 Mattei announced, to everyone's surprise, that the subsoil of northern Italy was rich in oil and methane deposits ; Italy could meet all of its energy needs by using its own resources . In the Italian press he promoted the idea that the nation (still suffering from the aftermath of World War II ) would soon be rich. Agip's market value rose and the company (which was owned by the state but operated like a private corporation) quickly became solid and important. In fact, only a methane deposit with a small amount of petroleum was found in the Cortemaggiore region in the Po Valley. Agip nevertheless applied for an exclusive concession for oil prospecting within the national territory and the associated profits. Political views were divided: the left supported the plan while the conservatives together with the industrialists opposed it.

At the time, Mattei is said to have used the unofficial resources of Agip for extensive bribery, particularly of politicians and journalists. Regarding the Movimento sociale italiano (MSI), the post-war fascist party, he said: " I used it like a taxi: I got in, paid for the trip, and got out ." Agip gained control of hundreds of societies in all economic sectors. Apparently Mattei paid close attention to the press as Agip took ownership of several newspapers and two news agencies .

In 1953 the Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi , better known as Eni, was created by law, in which Agip was incorporated as a brand of the petrol station network. Mattei was founding president, administrator and general manager in one. In fact, Eni Mattei and Mattei Eni were. The parallels to Pierre Guillaumat and his creation of the Elf Aquitaine in France are obvious.

Mattei observed the international oil market. He made up (or liked to tell) the story of the little cat: “A little cat came in when some large dogs were eating a plate. The dogs attacked them and barked at them. We [Italians] are like little cats and there is oil on the plate for everyone, but someone doesn't want to let us on the plate. "

This fable made Mattei quite popular in poor postwar Italy, and he received the public support necessary for political support. In order to break the oligopoly of the big oil companies, Mattei entered into agreements with the poorest countries in the Middle East and countries from the Eastern Bloc. When Eni was already in competition with giants like Esso or Shell in 1957 , he secretly financed the Algerian independence fighters against colonial France . He forged contracts with Tunisia and Morocco , to which he offered 50:50 partnerships for the exploitation of their oil, on terms significantly different from the concessions normally offered by the large oil companies. He also offered Iran and Egypt to let Eni take over the prospecting risk completely: If there were no oil, the countries would not have to pay a cent.

After signing an agreement with the Soviet Union in 1960 and during negotiations with the People's Republic of China , Mattei declared the American oil monopoly to be over. The reaction was initially mild and Eni was invited to participate in a prospecting map in the Sahara . Nonetheless, Mattei managed to make Algeria's independence a condition of his participation. There would be no agreement until that was reached. As a result of this position, Mattei was seen as the target of the right-wing extremist French terrorist organization OAS , which opposed Algeria's independence and sent him clear threats.

In 1962 his plane was sabotaged, but the pilot discovered this in good time.

Although the Italian secret service Servizio Informazioni Forze Armate was staffed with loyal supporters, Mattei did not trust him and set up a kind of personal security service with former Resistancea partisans, employees of Eni, and felt protected by them.


On a flight from Catania , Sicily , to Milan-Linate in October 1962, Mattei's plane had an accident near a small village in Lombardy between Pavia and Milan during a storm. The official investigations declared the crash to be an accident.

However, there are doubts about the theory of a technical defect:

  • In 1970 Francesco Rosi asked the journalist Mauro De Mauro to research the last few days of Mattei in Sicily for a film about Mattei that Rosi was preparing. De Mauro quickly discovered a tape recording of Mattei's last speech and spent days studying it. De Mauro disappeared without a trace eight days after he found the tape. His body was never found. In 1994 the repentant Mafioso Gaspare Mutolo testified that De Mauro was kidnapped by the Cosa Nostra in front of his house and strangled that same day.
  • Most of the investigators from the Carabinieri and the police who were looking for De Mauro and consequently investigating his suspected kidnapping were later murdered. Among them was the well-known General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa .
  • The well-known confessed mafioso Tommaso Buscetta told the famous investigating magistrate Giovanni Falcone that the De Mauro affair was not a mafia matter. Buscetta made a connection between De Mauro's investigation into Mattei's death and his disappearance. Another confessed mafioso, Gaetano Ianni , suggested a special agreement between the Cosa Nostra and "some foreigners" to eliminate Mattei.


  • Giorgio Galli: La sfida perduta. Bompiani, Milano, 1976.
  • Italo Pietra: Mattei, la pecora nera. Sugarco, Milano, 1987
  • Nico Perrone : Obiettivo Mattei. Gamberetti, Roma, 1995 ISBN 8-87990-010-2
  • Nico Perrone: Enrico Mattei. Il mulino, Bologna, 2001 ISBN 8-81507-913-0
  • Giovanni Buccianti: Enrico Mattei. Giuffrè, Milano, 2005.
  • Marcello Colitti:  Mattei, Enrico. In: Mario Caravale (ed.): Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI). Volume 72:  Massimino-Mechetti. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 2009.

Web links

Commons : Enrico Mattei  - collection of images, videos and audio files