Hall of Fame Class of 2013


Cecilia Danieli

Cecilia Danieli, who was known to her contemporaries as “Italy’s Lady of Steel,” steered Danieli Group through the global steel recession of the 1980s and made Danieli a household name around the world for the manufacturing of equipment for steel mini-mills and rolling mills.

Cecilia Danieli, one of Luigi Danieli’s four daughters, inherited the business from her father in the early 1980s, a time when the integrated steel industry in North America and Europe was reeling from the effects of recession. Thousands of steelworkers on two continents were laid off, and integrated steel mills shed hundreds of thousands of tons of capacity.

Cecilia Danieli steered the Danieli Group into a relatively new field, providing equipment for a new breed of steel mini-mills that were then starting up all over North America and Europe. The mini-mills—most of which had a production capacity of 1 million tons or less per year—converted scrap iron and steel into finished products using electric-arc furnaces (EFs). From 1981 into the early 1990s, Cecilia Danieli and her company built or equipped about half of the 250 mini-mills in the world.

For her role in guiding Danieli Group to the forefront in the construction and equipping of steel mini-mills, Cecilia Danieli is being inducted into the AMM Steel Hall of Fame.

Cecilia Danieli’s family dominated the steelmaking business in northern Italy. Brescia, the Italian region that the Danielis called home, was the Mon Valley of the Italian steel industry. Italians called the group of north Italian steelmakers who helped pioneer the mini-mill concept in the years following World War II “the Bresciani.” Danieli Group traces its roots to the 1914 founding of the Angelini Steelworks in Brescia by brothers Mario and Timo Danieli, among the first steelworks in Italy to utilize EFs to make steel.

In 1929, the Danieli brothers transferred part of the Angelini Steelworks to nearby Buttrio to free up space in the Brescia mill for the company’s growing business: manufacturing tools for forging plants and auxiliary machines for rolling mills.

In 1955, Luigi Danieli became the second-generation member of the family to head the company, which at the time employed 50 people and specialized in designing and manufacturing rolling mill equipment. He changed the company’s focus to the manufacturing of more competitive steelmaking equipment, to simplify layouts and to maximize the use of automation. Danieli Group developed the “EF/conticaster/rolling mill” production module, one of the first equipment packages designed specifically for mini-mill layouts.
In 1964, Danieli Group installed its first mini-mill package in Germany. At the same time, the company was installing its first continuous caster for Riva Group, one of the original Bresciani.

Cecilia Danieli, who started as an assistant to her father in 1965, was much more than a figurehead family owner. Educated at the University of Trieste, she completed her graduate studies in England and the United States. She was named managing director of Danieli Group in 1976 to run the company’s day-to-day operations, freeing her father to concentrate on the engineering side of the business. The next year, Danieli Group would install its first complete steel mill, in East Germany, winning the $240-million contract over competitor Friedrich Krupp AG, now ThyssenKrupp AG.

By the time Cecilia Danieli took complete reins of the company in the early 1980s, Danieli Group had built steel mills in 27 countries, including in North America, the Soviet Union, Western Europe, South America and Southeast Asia. In 1986, the company had either designed, built or manufactured equipment for roughly half of the 250 mini-mills that were then in operation around the world. In 1984, she and Gianpietro Benedetti, her longtime companion, took Danieli Group public; the move was initially opposed by her father, but Cecilia Danieli and Benedetti retained control of 54 percent of the company.

She had a reputation in the industry for being a smart, savvy, hands-on operator who knew the mini-mill business inside and out. A resident of the small Italian village of Buttrio, where she grew up, Cecilia Danieli thrived in a business that had been a man’s world since its inception. She was as adept at discussing the finer points of heavy machinery with technicians on a factory floor as she was closing multimillion-dollar deals in corporate suites around the globe.

Naturally shy and hesitant to step into the limelight, Cecilia Danieli told observers that the company’s results spoke for themselves, and the company and its employees always took precedence over its managing director.

Cecilia Danieli’s untimely death in 1999 from cancer—she was just 56—was a shock to the world steel community, which mourned the loss of her vision and her drive that encompassed growth, quality, the efficient use of human resources and a sense of environmental consciousness. A newspaper in Milan described her as “the mother of three children, with a passion for history and the mountains.” She was laid to rest in Friuli next to her father.

Following Cecilia Danieli’s death, Danieli Group’s directors named Benedetti, who started with the company as a roll pass designer, president and chief executive officer of the company. 

Tadeusz Sendzimir

Keith Busse