Hall of Fame Class of 2014

Agostino Rocca

Agostino Rocca’s career took him to the pinnacle of the business world in both Europe and South America. Along the way, the Italian-born businessman built the world’s largest seamless steel pipe producer.

For his work in founding and developing the multinational Techint Group, Rocca is being inducted into the AMM Steel Hall of Fame. The company he founded in Milan in 1945 today has an annual steel capacity of nearly 20 million tons and is the largest steel producer in Latin America.

Born in Milan in 1895, Rocca grew up in Rome and attended military schools in Rome and Turin. When World War I broke out in 1914, he enlisted in the Italian army and saw combat against Austro-Hungarian forces. Following the war, he attended a Milan engineering school. He began his career with Italian steelmaker Dalmine SpA, and during the next 10 years worked for a number of Italian companies in the manufacturing and finance sector.

In 1933, Rocca—who had joined Benito Mussolini’s movement in 1922 and helped propel him to the Italian presidency—was appointed a member of the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI), the body that governed corporate Italy. Rocca helped re-arm Italy in the years leading up to World War II and became a director of Dalmine and Italian engineering firm Gio. Ansaldo & C. SAS.

Rocca was named to head Finsider, the IRI’s financial arm, in 1938, but he broke with Mussolini’s wartime policies and was dismissed from the IRI in 1941. By the time Mussolini’s wartime government fell in 1943, Rocca had broken completely with Mussolini and his membership in an opposition group led to his arrest in Milan late in the war. Rocca was accused of being a collaborator in 1945, but he was released when no charges were filed.

Much of Italy’s economy was destroyed in the war, and Rocca realized that manufacturing would have to rebuild the country and its economy. In September 1945, Rocca founded Compagnia Tecnica Internazionale SpA in Milan with funding from several wealthy Milanese families.

Ironically, Rocca and his company would enjoy far more success overseas in its early years than back home. Renamed Techint for its international Telex code, the company was already doing work in Uruguay in 1946 and in Brazil a year later. Techint got its first big contract in Argentina in 1949, when the government of President Juan Peron hired it to build a 1,000-mile gas pipeline from Comodoro Rivadavia to Buenos Aires, and between 1948 and 1950 Techint’s engineering and construction division built 1,200 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, 90 electric substations and 600 miles of rail lines across Argentina. Through the late 1940s and into the 1950s, Techint became a major government contractor as Peron transformed Argentina from an agricultural society to an industrial economy.

In the 1950s, Rocca and Techint helped Peron create an Argentine steel industry. The company, whose core business consisted of building major pipeline systems, integrated backward and built its first seamless tube mill at Campana, Argentina, in 1954. That same year, Rocca reached back across the Atlantic to purchase a majority stake in his former employer, Dalmine. In 1969, Techint built a new mill in Ensenada, Argentina, the country’s only maker of cold-rolled steel. By that time, the Argentine government had entered a joint venture with Techint to manufacture steel. By 1973, Techint encompassed 30 different companies.

During Rocca’s tenure as head of Techint, the company spread across South and Central America, establishing subsidiaries in Brazil in 1947, Chile in 1951 and Mexico in 1954. The Mexican subsidiary was formed to build and operate the Tamsa steel mill in the port city of Veracruz.

Rocca never left his native Italy completely behind. His son and grandsons were educated there, and Rocca always took a great interest in Dalmine.

Much of Techint’s growth in Rocca’s later years was fueled by an infrastructure boom in South America. The Techint Engineering & Construction division spearheaded the construction of pipelines, petrochemical and natural gas processing plants, and civil infrastructure. The company’s operations in Uruguay after 1965 concentrated on building roads, highways and airports, while Techint completed the heavy crude oil pipeline in Ecuador in the early 1970s. In 1975, Techint launched operations in Peru, beginning construction of a natural gas pipeline system that would still be undergoing expansion in the 21st Century.

Rocca died in Argentina in 1978 at the age of 83. The same year, the company he founded began working in Saudi Arabia with initial construction of the Shedgum-Yanbu pipeline project, and Techint continues to work in the Middle East today.

On the steel side of the business, Techint’s Tenaris division created the world’s largest manufacturer of seamless steel pipe and tube during the past 30 years. Using Siderca, the Argentine steelmaker started by Rocca 60 years ago, as a base, Tenaris today has manufacturing facilities in North and South America, Europe and the Far East with a combined annual production capacity of 3.8 million tons of seamless steel pipe.

Rocca’s genius was in creating vertically integrated manufacturing that could make steel and design, engineer and build complex pipeline projects. Following his death, Techint continued to prosper under the direction of his son, Roberto Rocca, and his grandsons, Agostino, Paolo and Gianfelice Rocca, emerging in the 21st Century as one of the world’s most accomplished engineering firms.

Paul Dillon
Gerry Heffernan
John McConnell