The untimely death last Thursday from the cancer that she had kept a closely-guarded secret, of Marisa Bellisario, adds further confusion to the protracted efforts to secure the future of the Italian flagship telecommunications manufacturer Italtel SpA. The modern Italtel is very much the creation of Ms Bellisario, far and away the most celebrated woman in Italian business circles, and the company is left with a vacuum at the top – just as the decision on an international partner for Italtel was due to be announced. Ms Bellisario’s influence – and political connections with the socialist group in the Italian parliament were such that it is quite likely that a different partner will now be chosen than would have been the case had she lived. The hand of AT&T Co in the negotiations looks to be strengthened, as does that of Ing C Olivetti SpA, since there was no love lost between Ms Bellisario and Carlo de Benedetti. Much may depend on the choice of successor, but it is doubtful that anyone with the standing of Ms Bellisario will be found. The other contenders for Italtel’s hand are Siemens AG, L M Ericsson AB and Alcatel NV. It was the unilateral appointment by the state of Ms Bellisario to head the proposed company that would have resulted from the merger of Italtel with Fiat SpA’s Telettra that caused Fiat to pull out of the agreement, but while that merger would still be in the best interests of the Italian industry, it is very unlikely it could be resurrected.