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It will come as no surprise to hear that Alitalia’s 2008 restructuring was mired in dark dealings and interference from Berlusconi. Nevertheless, the latest revelations from WikiLeaks, a cable from the US embassy in Rome to Washington and US embassies throughout Europe, charts the US’s response to those dark days in choice words. 

“A sad reminder of Berlusconi’s rather weak adherence to some of the core principles of free-market capitalism,” wrote the US embassy, pointing out that “cronies” took the healthy portions of the company, while taxpayers suffered the debts.

It’s astonishing to remember the Alitalia story – unthinkable these days. Since it’s launch in 1946, it enjoyed barely a handful of years of profit, yet received billions of euros in state aid and government props.

Of course, it was run by the intractable Giovanni Bisignani from 1989 to 1994, and had a reputation for “slovenly service, poisonous labor relations, and antiquated equipment,” according to Forbes writer Peter Fuhrman. Lucky, then, that he moved on to run IATA, wouldn’t you say?
Find the WikiLeaks document here.

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