When Italy's Fiat picked its new CEO in early 1996, PAOLO CANTARELLA, 52, was the only real contender. As head of its key car unit since 1990, he had turned a loss-making clunker into a sleek profit machine. And Cantarella's bold move to build a "world car" for emerging markets ahead of rivals is paying off. Now, he'll try to work his magic in the rest of Fiat's $53 billion robots-to-real estate empire.

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