10 January 2021

Giorgio Mondadori - publisher

Helped launch La Repubblica after family split

Giorgio Mondadori followed his father into publishing
Giorgio Mondadori followed his
father into publishing
The publisher Giorgio Mondadori, who was president of the famous publishing house set up by his father, Arnoldo Mondadori, until an acrimonious split in 1976, died on his 92nd birthday on this day in 2009 in a clinic in Tuscany.

Mondadori commissioned the Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, to build the company’s eye-catching headquarters in Segrate, near Milan, in 1975, which remains his legacy to the family business.

At around the same time that he left the company, for whom he had worked for 38 years, he set up a joint venture with another publishing group, L’Espresso, that resulted in the launch of La Repubblica, a new, centre-left national newspaper that was to grow into one of the most popular daily newspapers in Italy, with a circulation topped only by the long-established Corriere della Sera.

Born in Ostiglia, a small town in the province of Mantua, Lombardy, in 1917, Giorgio was the second of four children born to Arnoldo Mondadori and Andreina Monicelli, some 10 years after his father founded Arnoldo Mondadori Editore.

After completing his education, Giorgio began working for the company in 1938 at the age of 21.

After the Second World War, his position in the company alongside his older brother, Alberto, became increasingly important. Indeed, after Arnoldo had decided to relocate the family to Switzerland, Giorgio and Alberto were the first to return to Milan, where the company had been based before relocating to Verona to escape the bombing of the city.

Giorgio Mondadori (right) with his father, Arnoldo
(left), flanking former PM Aldo Moro
Arnoldo sent Giorgio to the United States to study the latest industrial and commercial innovations with the aim of modernising the company, which had already become a leading publisher of both books and magazines but which needed to keep ahead of the competition as Italy’s economic recovery began to gather pace.

Nonetheless, Arnoldo remained in charge until well into his 70s, and it was not until 1968, when his father stepped back into the role of honorary president, Giorgio became president and chairman.

By this time, Giorgio was already a high-profile figure both in publishing and the sporting world, in which he was president of Verona’s football club, AC Verona, which under his charge won promotion to Serie A for the first time for the 1957-58 season.

As president of Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Giorgio was instrumental in the decision to move the company’s headquarters away from Via Bianca di Savoia in central Milan because of constraints on necessary expansion plans.

After commissioning a number of architects to submit plans without finding one that matched their expectations, Giorgio and Alberto looked farther afield and it was on a visit to Brasilia, the federal capital of Brazil, that Giorgio came across the work of Oscar Niemeyer, who had designed many important buildings in the city.

La Repubblica is now one of Italy's most popular newspapers
La Repubblica is now one of
Italy's most popular newspapers
He was particularly taken with the design of the Foreign Ministry, also known as the Palace of the Arches, and commissioned Niemeyer to build something along similar lines for Mondadori. Giorgio acquired an area of land in Segrate, which he subsequently sold to the insurance company, Assicurazioni Generali, who paid for the construction of the building and leased it back to Mondadori. The project, incorporating a lake, began in 1971 and was completed in 1975.

It was in 1975 that Giorgio Mondarori hosted a meeting at his villa in  Sommacampagna, a town about 15km (9 miles) west of Verona, with the journalist Eugenio Scalfari and publisher Carlo Carraciolo, the aristocratic founder of Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso, which led to the foundation of La Repubblica, which at the start broke with tradition by including no business or sports sections, devoting itself solely to news.  Mondadori was appointed the newspaper’s first president.

However, in 1976, the year of La Repubblica’s newsstand debut, Mondadori found himself ousted from Arnoldo Mondadori Editore by his sisters, Cristina and Mimma, whose decision to merge their shareholdings left Giorgio with only a minority share. The presidency passed instead to Mario Formenton, Christina’s husband.

A bitter Giorgio soon left the company altogether, selling his 25 per cent holding, and teamed up with Caraciolo to form a new company, Giorgio Mondadori e Associati.

His new company flourished, specialising in publishing in the areas of travel and other leisure pursuits, building up a portfolio that included the magazines Airone, Bell'Italia, Bell'Europa, In Viaggio, Gardenia and Arte e Antiquariato.  He sold the company to entrepreneur and publisher Urbano Cairo in 1999, at which point he retired. 

He died at a private clinic in Figline Valdarno, Tuscany, a town about 35km (22 miles) southeast of Florence in the direction of Arezzo. He left a wife, Nara Panconesi, and children Claudia, Nicolò and Paolo. His ashes are buried in the Mondadori family tomb, at the Monumental Cemetery in Milan.

Travel tip:

The Palazzina Mondadori in Ostiglia now houses Arnoldo Mondadori's book collection
The Palazzina Mondadori in Ostiglia now
houses Arnoldo Mondadori's book collection
Ostiglia, where Giorgio Mondadori was born, is a town rich in history. Situated about 160 km (99 miles) southeast of Milan and about 30 km (19 miles) southeast of Mantua, in Roman times, when it was called Hostilia, its location on the Via Claudia Augusta Padana saw it become a trade hub linking Emilia with northern Europe.  In the Middle Ages it was a stronghold of Verona before being acquired in turn by the Scaliger, Visconti and Gonzaga families. The Palazzina Mondadori, an elegant Art Nouveau-style building that was the first Arnoldo printing house, hosts Arnoldo Mondadori’s private library consisting of about 1,000 books, many signed by the authors.

Piazza Marsilio Ficino, the beautiful square
at the heart of Figline Valdarno
Travel tip:

Figline Valdarno, where Mondadori died, is famous for its literary and artistic heritage. The birthplace of renowned artists and writers such as Masaccio, Poggio Bracciolini and Benedetto Varchi, the town was mentioned by Dante in Paradise, the third part of his Divine Comedy.  At the centre of Figline Valdarno is the beautiful Piazza Marsilio Ficino, at one end of which is the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria, which contains works of art by Giovanni Andrea de Magistris and Andrea della Robbia among others.

Also on this day:

49BC: Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon river, sparking civil war

987: The death of Pietro Orseolo, Doge of Venice

1890: The birth of Pina Menichelli, silent movie star

1903: The birth of sculptor and car designer Flaminio Bertoni

1959: The birth of football coach Maurizio Sarri


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