Somewhat inevitably, Lamborghini isn’t alone in having a fragmented history of owners, with its near Modena neighbour Maserati also sharing an equally convoluted span of proprietors over its much longer existence.
First founded by a quintet of gifted Maserati brothers in December 1914 to build and maintain competition cars for local sportscar maker Diatto, Maserati built its first eponymous car in 1926, following Diatto’s withdrawal from motor racing.
The Maserati brothers successfully developed their cars and business, until selling their majority shareholding on to the wealthy Adolfo Orsi and his family in 1937, whilst retaining an interest in engineering the latest Maserati-branded competition cars under a ten-year contract. Once this agreement had expired, in 1947 the four surviving Maserati brothers established O.S.C.A. in Bologna as a specialist sportscar maker, this small company ceasing its activities in 1967.
With Adolfo Orsi remaining as nominal president, in 1968 he agreed to sell Maserati on to the innovative French mass vehicle producer Citroën, with the intention for the Italian firm to design and manufacture a suitable engine for Citroën’s upcoming flagship GT model, launched as the remarkable Maserati V6-powered SM in 1970.
During its brief tenure (Citroën itself going bust and being taken over by former rival Peugeot in 1974 to form PSA, with Maserati being liquidated and then sold-off in late 1975), Citroen funded a number of important new Maserati models, including the mid-engined Bora and Merak, plus the front-engined Khamsin and short-lived SM-derived Quattroporte II.
Following Citroën’s collapse, it sold a minority stake in the now-liquidated Maserati on to Argentinian-born entrepreneur and fellow Modena-based exotic sportscar maker Alejandro De Tomaso in August 1975, with an Italian state-owned holding company, GEPI, taking the majority 88.75 per cent shareholding, along with De Tomaso acquiring Innocenti from the recently-failed British Leyland.
Under De Tomaso’s control, a radical new strategy saw Maserati gradually move production away from its ultra-exclusive and expensive supercar and GT models, and move into a more mainstream arena with its new 1981–94 Biturbo range, created to compete with top-end BMW 3 Series derivatives, for example.
In 1989 De Tomaso finally acquired Maserati’s remaining GEPI majority shareholding, quickly selling his stake in Innocenti to Fiat S.p.A.. This action ultimately led to Fiat saving Maserati from liquidation once again too, with De Tomaso selling his majority 51 per cent stake in the celebrated sportscar maker to the Turin motoring giant in May 1993.
Four years later, Fiat (which had already bought Ferrari from its famous founder Enzo in 1969) sold a 50 per cent share in Maserati to its former main Italian Modenese rival in 1997, with Ferrari taking full control in 1999, reassigning Maserati as its new luxury division.