4 April 2016

Daniela Riccardi - leading Italian businesswoman

Head of luxury glassware company trained as a ballet dancer

Daniela Riccardi is CEO of luxury glassware manufacturer Baccarat
Daniela Riccardi
Born on this day in 1960, Daniela Riccardi in 2013 became chief executive of Baccarat, the luxury glass and crystal manufacturer that originated in the town of the same name in the Lorraine region of France in the 18th century.

Formerly CEO of the Italian clothing company Diesel, she is one of Italy's most successful businesswomen, yet might easily have forged alternative careers as a dancer or a diplomat.

Born in Rome, she began dancing when she was five and studied ballet for 12 years at the National Dance Academy in Rome, with the aim of becoming a professional dancer.

When it became clear that she would not quite be good enough to grace the world's great stages, she remained determined to have a career that would satisfy her desire to experience many countries and cultures and went to Rome University to study political science and international studies, with the aim of working in diplomacy.

However, during a postgraduate year at Yale University in the United States, she spent a brief period as an intern at Pepsi, where she was so impressed by the energy and leadership of the company's management she realised that this was the career she really wanted.

Back in Italy, she applied to number of multinational companies and was hired by Procter & Gamble, where she stayed for 25 years.  She worked in senior management positions in Europe, South America, Russia and Asia, eventually becoming president of P&G Greater China.  The Financial Times named her as one of the top 50 emerging female managers in the world.

The palazzo near Piazza Navona used to house Rome University
Palazzo della Sapienza, near Piazza Navona,
used to be the home of Rome University
Riccardi left Procter & Gamble in 2010 after turning 50, deciding it was an appropriate moment to make a change.  She considered returning to ballet and putting her money into an international dance academy, or perhaps running an institution such as the New York City Ballet.

Then came an invitation to become CEO at Diesel, the company based just outside Vicenza that founder and president Renzo Rosso began by stitching jeans on his mother's sewing machine. She remained there for three years until the appeal of taking an historic brand and equipping it to survive in the modern world attracted her to Baccarat.

The company, with its headquarters now in Paris, has a 250-year history.  Its products are unashamedly at the luxury end of the market and the precision of the craftsmanship that goes into each piece appealed to Riccardi's tastes.  Her father was a jeweller in Rome and she developed an eye for quality at a young age.

She retains a love of dance, giving private lessons in her spare time, often to employees of the company.

Fluent in French, Spanish and English as well as Italian, Riccardi is married to Juan Pablo, a Colombian she met in Brussels. They have two children, Matteo and Cecilia, and share five homes - apartments in Florida, New York and Rome, a farmhouse in Colombia and a house they are renovating on the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples.

UPDATE: In 2020, Riccardi became chief executive of Moleskine, the Italian company that specialises in high-end stationery products and travel accessories. 

Travel tip:

Rome University, often known simply as La Sapienza - the wisdom - is one of the oldest in the world, its origins traceable to 1303, when it was opened by Pope Boniface VIII as the first pontifical university.  It was intended to be a place of ecclesiastical studies, a status it retained until 1870, when it broadened its outlook and was adopted as the university of the Italian capital.  A new campus was built near the Termini railway station in 1935 and now caters for more than 112,000 students. Previously, it had been housed in much smaller buildings close to Piazza Navona in Rome's historic centre.

The Castello Aragonese is one of
Ischia's most popular sights
Travel tip:

Ischia is a volcanic island at the northern end of the Bay of Naples, less well known than its neighbour, Capri, but equally beautiful and with a population of around 60,000.  It is famous for its thermal spas, around which much tourism is based.  Among the most popular attractions is the Castello Aragonese, a castle built on rock near the island in 474 BC, to defend the island against pirates.  On the south side of the island, the long sandy beach of Maronti and the picturesque fishing village of Sant'Angelo are well worth visiting.


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