At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Vittorio Cecchi Gori - entrepreneur

Ex-president of Fiorentina who produced two of Italy’s greatest films


Former Fiorentina owner and film producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori
Former Fiorentina owner and film
producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori
Vittorio Cecchi Gori, whose chequered career in business saw him produce more than 300 films and own Fiorentina’s football club but also saw him jailed for fraudulent bankruptcy, was born on this day in 1942 in Florence.

The son of Mario Cecchi Gori, whose production company he inherited, he provided the financial muscle behind two of Italy’s greatest films of recent years, Il Postino (1994), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful (1997), which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.

He was also involved with the 1992 Oscar winner Mediterraneo, directed by Gabriele Salvatores, which also won in the Best Foreign Language film category.

Vittorio’s legacy from his father also included Fiorentina football club, of which he was president from 1993 to 2002.

Cecchi Gori with his late father Mario
Cecchi Gori with his late father Mario
With Cecchi Gori’s backing, while his involvement with the movie business was generating such huge profits, Fiorentina enjoyed great times.  He invested heavily in new players and persuaded the club’s icon, the Argentine forward Gabriel Batistuta, to stay after the viola were relegated in 1993.

With Claudio Ranieri as coach, they won the Coppa Italia in 1996, their first trophy in 20 years, following it up by winning the Super Cup later the same year and another Coppa Italia in 2001. In the 1999-2000 season they had played in the Champions League for the first time.

Yet the impetuous entrepreneur was to run into serious financial difficulties in subsequent years and went from revered to reviled in Florence after his own business collapse became Fiorentina’s collapse also.

His problems began in 1995, when he mounted an ambitious challenge against Italy’s television duopoly, held by the public broadcaster RAI and Silvio Berlusconi’s Fininvest.

Cecchi Gori with the Fiorentina star Gabriel Batistuta
Cecchi Gori with the Fiorentina star Gabriel Batistuta
Cecchi Gori bought up some small TV companies used their infrastructure to create a new channel, La7, and formulating an ambitious plan to acquire the rights to televise Serie A, the top division of the Italian Football League. He failed to secure them, however, ratings hit an all-time low and the new channel was sold for a huge loss.

An expensive divorce did not help, plunging him into huge personal debt, and in 2001 it was revealed that Fiorentina had debts equating to $50 million.  Their fortunes on the field were in decline also and things came to a head at the end of the 2001-02 season, when they were relegated from Serie A and promptly entered judicially-controlled administration, a form of bankruptcy.  Because of this, they were refused a place in Serie B for the following season and had to start again in Serie C, the third division, after effectively winding up the historic club and starting a new one.

At the same time, Cecchi Gori’s business empire was collapsing.   Prized assets such as his luxurious apartment in the Palazzo Borghese in Rome, the Multisala Adriano, his Rome cinema complex, and his film library were sold to raise funds, but to no avail.

Police investigations into his affairs dogged him for years.  In 2006 he was found guilty of illegally redirecting millions of dollars from Fiorentina into other businesses and in 2013 received a six-year jail term in connection with the bankruptcy of his production company, Safin Cinematografica.

Until his business problems, Cecchi Gori served as a member of the Italian Senate between 1994 and 2001, having been elected as a member of the centre-right Partito Popolare Italiano.

Florence's Stadio Artemio Franchi
Florence's Stadio Artemio Franchi
Travel tip:

In a city best known for its magnificent Renaissance architecture, the Stadio Artemio Franchi, the home stadium of Fiorentina, is notable as a classic of early 20th century design. Opened in 1931, it was designed by the renowned architect and structural engineer Pier Luigi Nervi and constructed entirely of reinforced concrete with a 70m (230 ft) tower that bears the stadium's flagstaff. Originally called Stadio Giovanni Berta, after a local Fascist, it was changed to Stadio Comunale before taking the name of Franchi, then Italian Football Federation president, in 1991.

The narrow rear facade of the Palazzo Borghese overlooks the Tiber
The narrow rear facade of the Palazzo
Borghese overlooks the Tiber
Travel tip:

The Palazzo Borghese, where Cecchi Gori had an apartment valued at almost €10 million, is a palace in Rome that was originally the home of the powerful Borghese family, who settled in Rome in the 16th century and also owned the Villa Borghese and surrounding gardens. The palace was nicknamed il Cembalo - the harpsichord - due to its unusual trapezoid shape, with its narrowest rear facade facing the Tiber river. The front facade - the keyboard of the harpsichord - opening on to the Fontanella di Borghese. The first floor has housed the Spanish Embassy since 1947.

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