‘Every day that I work with Ferretti, I say wow’: GC Niccoló Pallesi

Luxury yacht executive discusses his career path, ringing the bell at the Boursa Italiana, the value of respect and two great private client events

Niccoló Pallesi is GC and secretary of luxury yacht-builder Ferretti’s board of directors Photo courtesy of Ferretti

Niccoló Pallesi is general counsel and secretary of luxury yacht-builder Ferretti’s board of directors where he is responsible for overseeing all of the company’s legal, corporate and compliance affairs. He began his career as an associate at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and most recently worked with Eni, the Italian national oil and gas company. In addition to his law degree from Luiss Guido Carli University, he received an LL.M. in international tax law from the International Tax Center at the University of Leiden (Netherlands) and an LL.M. in business law from the University of California – Berkeley School of Law. Based in Italy, he is admitted to the New York Bar Association and the Italian Bar Association.

What was your path into luxury law?

I had no real path to luxury law. I was working with Eni as an in-house counsel and in M&A for about 10 years and knew I wanted to become a general counsel. I was looking for opportunities but not specifically in luxury. A colleague was connected to Ferretti and when the general counsel position opened up, I was excited about it. Now, every day that I work with Ferretti, I say ‘wow’.

What is it like to work at Ferretti?

It is my first general counsel role and I serve as the right hand to the chief executive officer as well as a business partner to our lines of business; I also manage four other lawyers within the legal department. It is a different perspective from my previous role within Eni and I enjoy it very much.

In the first three years that I was with Ferretti, the company went from being a private company to being listed on two markets. We became the first group in the world – not only in luxury yachting – to achieve a double listing in Hong Kong and Milan. Ferretti produces some of the most important yachts in the world under well-known brands such as Riva and Wally. Our Riva brand is known as the ‘Ferrari of the seas’. These are some of the reasons, I saw ‘wow’ every day. I am proud to be with this company.

What is one accomplishment at Ferretti that you would like to highlight?

Well, the most exciting moment was certainly the ringing of the bell at the Borsa Italiana in Milan on 27 June, when, and I quote our CEO Avv. Alberto Galassi, we had returned home. 

From a more technical and legal point of view, the most complex activity was the preparation of the operating model, that is, the system for repositioning shares between the Milan and Hong Kong markets. This activity specifically was one of the most rewarding aspects because, after months of hard work, we had formal confirmation of the first cross-border transfer of Ferretti shares from Hong Kong to Milan.

You received your education in Italy, the Netherlands and the US. How important is international education and experience?

When you start out in your education and career, you have choices. I could have stayed in Italy or taken a different path. In Italy, after receiving a law degree you need to spend two years practicing law before being allowed to take the bar exam. The other path was the opportunity to go abroad, open my mind, live in different countries, breathe different cultures. 

I am thankful to my father, who is also a lawyer, because he encouraged me to take the international path and he helped me build a plan. It worked out! And this period abroad remains the best time of my life, where I made strong friendships with people from around the world. Still, after more than 15 years we gather together once a year, always in a different country. 

Your father was a strong influence in your career. What advice did he give you when you left to go abroad?

Respect is the first thing that he taught me. Respect for everyone and everything. He also told me to be open-minded and inclusive. I was 24 when I left Italy. I had many lessons to learn.

What did you learn from your experiences abroad?

Italy is a country with a deep history and culture. But Italians think very differently than Americans. Americans think about how they can change the world. They believe in making justice work in a way I had not seen before and I feel very strongly about this. The worst thing you can do in any country is to stay put; someone who indeed changed the world (Steve Jobs) said: “Stay hungry, stay foolish”. Creating changes is very important but to do so is very different in Italy versus the United States.

If a young law graduate came to you to ask for advice, what would you say?

My advice would be to go abroad. There is a saying, no less than two, no more than five. It means that you need at least two years of experience out of your country but no more than five years away if you want to return. This advice helped me to grow personally and professionally, and I believe it would help others.

Working for Ferretti must be very exciting. Does anything stand out?

I can mention two fantastic events Ferretti hosted for its top clients. First, a concert in Venice, at the La Fenice theatre, performed by Sir Elton John, and second, a Ferretti Private Preview in Monte Carlo where we hosted the Italian rock band Måneskin. Those were indeed very memorable events.

Niccolò Pallesi serves as chair for the invite-only Luxury Boutique Milan Masterclass on 30 September in Milan.  

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