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Iconic Italian bike business Colnago sold to UAE-based investment firm

Ernesto Colnago will keep small stake in pioneering business he founded 66 years ago

Sixty-six years after it was founded, iconic Italian bike brand Colnago has been sold to an investment firm based in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Set up by Ernesto Colnago in his home town of Cambiago, just to the north east of Milan, the company’s frames have triumphed in all of cycling’s biggest races and have been ridden by some of the biggest names in the sport, perhaps most famously, Eddy Merckx.

The firm;s founder, now aged 87 and who has lost his wife and, more recently, his brother, who worked alongside him, will retain a small stake in the business after selling a controlling stake to Chimera Investments LLC.

In a statement, he said: "Chimera Investments will give Colnago the ability to grow and increase its presence in all markets, while maintaining and improving the quality of Colnago products. We have a unique opportunity with the support of Chimera to ensure that we continue to build the world's best bikes well into the future." 

Chimera Investments added: “From all the fans of Colnago, we would like to thank the master of the design and invention of great bikes Ernesto Colnago, and we would like to follow his path and move forward in his legacy bringing Colnago to a bright future as no-one else would. Mister Colnago will always be the Godfather and the guiding force of the new developments.”

The Italian business already had links with the UAE, having been bike sponsor to UAE Team Emirates – formerly Lampre-Merida – since 2017, with the same year seeing the team’s registration transferred from Italy to the United Arab Emirates.

The team is managed by Giuseppe Saronni, who in the 1980s rode Colnago bikes to victories including the overall title at the Giro d’Italia and the road world championship at Goodwood.

Some have expressed dismay on social media about one of the most famous names in the industry changing hands, while others see positives from the deal.

Colnago passa

Ernesto Colnago, who came from a poor family, was born in Cambiago in 1932 and at the age of 12 began his apprenticeship, opening his own framebuilding business in 1953, when he was aged 21.

He also raced bikes and in 1955 was invited by Fiorenzo Magni, who had visited his workshop, to take part in the Giro d’Italia. Magni, along with Merckx and Saronni, was one of the famous names to have ridden a Colnago frame, sometimes rebadged for sponsorship reasons.

A friend of the late Enzo Ferrari, Colnago has collaborated with the car marque for a number of striking limited edition bikes over the years.

Their friendship also led to Colnago pioneering one of the big advances in road bike technology in the past half-century – using carbon fibre to make frames, suggested to him by Ferrari in 1980 when the material was starting to appear in Formula 1 cars.

The carbon fibre tubing developed in partnership with Ferrari and the Politecnico di Milano was the first of its kind, with other innovations since then for which Colnago deserves credit including being the first manufacturer to introduce disc brakes on a road bike.

The sale of Colnago comes three and a half years after another of Italy’s leading bikemakers, Pinarello, was sold to an investment firm linked to the French luxury goods giant LVMH.

> Pinarello sold to private equity firm part owned by French luxury goods group LVMH, owner of Louis Vuitton

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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6 comments

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Bryin | 4 years ago
1 like

Why do you think any investment firm would purchase a high end bike maker?  Because of the attraction of huge margins on frames made for less than $200 in China and sold for $4000 or more.  Just like Pinarello...   

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Chris Hayes replied to Bryin | 4 years ago
1 like

Isn't it just the open mould frames that are so cheap to make?  Colnago's top-end frames are still made in Italy.  And not all carbon is created equal.... It's an interesting point you raise though.  There's not that much apparel being sold by Pinarello or Colnago, and I can't think of many / any family name branded bikes that have survived the founder.... For example, I'm not sure how much I'd pay for a Pegoretti that wasn't made or painted by Dario or under his supervision.... 

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Chris Hayes | 4 years ago
2 likes

Nothing of its generation rides like my C50...it floats - on rails - like a Maglev.  This is an elegant exit for Ernesto who, aged 87,  will now be able to pass on his wealth to the younger generation.  We should wish him well and thank him for a lifetime of dedication to our sport. 

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darrenleroy replied to Chris Hayes | 4 years ago
3 likes

There is nothing elegant in selling a business to a theocratic, tin pot, middle eastern dictatorship. 

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Chris Hayes replied to darrenleroy | 4 years ago
0 likes

There is if you're getting the cash! 

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matthewn5 replied to darrenleroy | 3 years ago
0 likes

He's not selling it to a government, he's selling to a company based in Abu Dhabi - which among the Emirates is probably the least 'tin pot' and not at all theocratic (are you thinking of Saudi?).

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