24 May 2021

Aurelio De Laurentiis - entrepreneur

Film producer who owns SSC Napoli

Aurelio De Laurentiis followed his father and uncle into the movie industry
Aurelio De Laurentiis followed his father
and uncle into the movie industry
The film producer and football club owner Aurelio De Laurentiis was born on this day in 1949 in Rome.

The nephew of Dino De Laurentiis, the producer credited with giving Italian cinema an international platform with his backing for Federico Fellini’s Oscar-winning 1954 movie La Strada, Aurelio teamed up with his father, Luigi, to form the production company Filmauro in 1975.

The company has produced or distributed more than 400 films in Italy and around the world, working with directors such as Mario Monicelli, Ettore Scola, Pupi Avati, Damiano Damiani and Roberto Benigni among the big names of Italian cinema, as well as internationally-acclaimed names such as Blake Edwards, Peter Weir, Luc Besson, Eduardo Sanchez and Ridley Scott.

Aurelio has won numerous honours for his achievements in the film industry, including, in 2005, the Nastro d'Argento as Best Producer for What Will Become of Us - What Will Become of Us?- and all in that night (released in America as Adventures in Babysitting).  

Filmauro is also the company behind a sequence of Christmas comedies that have proved massively popular with Italian audiences since they were launched in the 1980s. 

Yet he is perhaps even better known for buying up a bankrupt SSC Napoli football club in 2004 and taking it from Serie C - the third tier of Italian football - to the Champions League in just five years.

The badge of the Serie A club
SSC Napoli, rescued by De Laurentiis
With roots in Torre Annunziata, the historic former Roman city on the Bay of Naples where his father and uncle were born, De Laurentiis always regarded Naples as his spiritual home, even though he was born in Rome.

When SSC Napoli went bust after 78 years of history, with debts of 70 million euros, it was De Laurentiis who stepped in with dreams of restoring the club to its glory years of the 1980s, when Diego Maradona was the fulcrum of a team that became Italian champions for the first time in 1987 and won a second title three years later, landing a first major European trophy via the UEFA Cup in between.

He had to start at a lowly level, launching a new club called Napoli Soccer after the Italian football federation banned the use of the historic SSC Napoli name and placing the new entity in Serie C1, the third tier in the Italian football pyramid.

But after hiring Edoardo Reja, a coach who had won promotion for Brescia, Vicenza and Cagliari, the new club gained promotion from Serie C at the second attempt and Serie B at the first, returning to Serie A at the start of the 2007-08 season.

Walter Mazzarri, the manager who won a Champions League place for Napoli
Walter Mazzarri, the manager who took
Napoli back into Europe
By then, De Laurentiis had bought the rights to use the SSC Napoli name and proved himself a shrewd judge of coaches by appointing Walter Mazzarri in October 2009 and signing the attacking trio of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamšík. 

Under Mazzari’s guidance, Napoli finished third in Serie A in 2011 to qualify for the Champions League and won the Coppa Italia for the first time since the Maradona era the following season.

The Spaniard Rafael Benitez, famous for winning the UEFA Cup with Valencia and the Champions League with Liverpool, followed Mazzari and brought De Laurentiis a second Coppa Italia and a Supercoppa Italia as well as two more seasons in the Champions League.

Benitez’s successor Maurizio Sarri steered them to runners-up spot in Serie A twice in four seasons between 2015 and 2018, each time behind Juventus, and third in the other, before giving way to three-times Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti, under whom they were second again in 2019 and won a third Coppa Italia in 2020.

With Gennaro Gattuso in charge, Napoli missed out on a Champions League place in 2020-21 and will have to be content with a Europa League spot again in 2021-22 after finishing fifth in the season just ended, after which De Laurentiis announced that Gattuso is to leave the club.

In 2018, De Laurentiis expanded his football empire by acquiring another bankrupt former Serie A club in Bari, once Napoli’s rivals for superiority in southern Italy.

Should Bari, currently in Serie C, find their way back to Serie A after an exile of more than 10 years, De Laurentiis may face a problem as the Italian federation (FIGC) does not permit the ownership of more than once top-flight club, although the club president is actually Luigi De Laurentiis junior, Aurelio’s eldest son by his Swiss-born second wife, Jacqueline Baudit.

In September 2020, De Laurentiis revealed that he had tested positive for Covid-19, raising fears for his health given his age. Happily, the illness was short-lived and he has since made a full recovery.

Visitors to Torre Annunziata can see the remains of the Villa Oplontis, an ancient Roman complex
Visitors to Torre Annunziata can see the remains of
the Villa Oplontis, an ancient Roman complex
Travel tip:

Torre Annunziata, where De Laurentiis has family roots, is a city in the metropolitan area of Naples. Close to Mount Vesuvius, the original city was destroyed in the eruption of 79 AD and a new one built over the ruins. Its name derives from a watch tower - torre - built to warn people of imminent Saracen raids and a chapel consecrated to the Annunziata (Virgin Mary). It became a centre for pasta production - in which Dino De Laurentiis worked before entering the movie business - in the early 19th century. The Villa Poppaea, also known as Villa Oplontis, believed to be owned by Nero, was discovered about 10 metres below ground level just outside the town and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A view of Piazza Ferrarese, which overlooks the harbour in the older part of the city of Bari
A view of Piazza Ferrarese, which overlooks the
harbour in the older part of the city of Bari
Travel tip:

Bari is the second largest urban area after Naples in the south of the Italy. It has a busy port and some expansive industrial areas but plenty of history, too, especially in the old city - Bari Vecchia - which sits on a headland between two harbours.  Fanning out around two Romanesque churches, the Cattedrale di San Sebino and the Basilica of St Nicholas, the area is a maze of medieval streets with many historical buildings and plenty of bars and restaurants.  There is also a castle, the Castello Svevo.  The more modern part of the city is known as the Centro Murattiano, or the Murat quarter, in that it was built during the period in the early 19th century in which Joachim Murat, for a long time Napoleon's most trusted military strategist, ruled the Kingdom of Naples, of which Bari was a part.

Also on this day:

1494: The birth of painter Jacopo Carucci da Pontormo

1671: The birth of Gian Gastone de’ Medici, the last of the dynasty to rule Florence

1751: The birth of Charles Emmanuel IV, King of Sardinia

1981: The birth of celebrity chef Simone Rugiati


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