30 July 2021

Adriano Galliani - entrepreneur, politician and football executive

Businessman was CEO of AC Milan in golden era 

Adriano Galliani was AC Milan's chief executive for 21 mostly successful years
Adriano Galliani was AC Milan's chief
executive for 21 mostly successful years
The entrepreneur Adriano Galliani, who was chief executive of AC Milan for 21 years, was born on this day in 1944 in Monza, the Lombardy city a little under 20km (12 miles) north of Milan.

With Galliani at the helm, Milan won the Serie A title eight times and were five-times winners of the Champions League in what was a golden era for the club.

Galliani became CEO at the club in 1986 when the ownership transferred to Silvio Berlusconi, the businessman and future prime minister with whom he had created the commercial TV company Mediaset.

He was responsible for some of the club’s most spectacular player signings, persuading such global stars as Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, George Weah, Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka to sign for the club.

All five won the Ballon D’Or, the annual award given to the player judged to the best player in all the European leagues, during their time with the club.

Since 2018, Galliani has held a seat in the Senate of the Italian parliament as a representative of Forza Italia, the political party founded by Berlusconi.

Galliani (left) and Silvio Berlusconi were business partners before they took charge at AC Milan
Galliani (left) and Silvio Berlusconi were business
partners before they took charge at AC Milan
Galliani hailed from a middle class family in Monza. His father was an official on the local council, his mother the owner of a small transport company. She died when he was only 15 years old, a loss he has described in interviews as devastating.

He trained as a surveyor and worked on various projects in Monza for eight years but had an entrepreneurial spirit which he claims he inherited from his mother and made his first commercial investment in a bathing establishment at Vieste on the Adriatic coast, near Foggia, some 810km (503 miles) from his hometown.

But the gamble that would change his life came in 1975, when he bought Elettronica Industriale, a company based near Monza at Lissone, which made the equipment needed to send and receive television signals.

The owner, Ottorino Barbuti, was one of many businessmen in Italy at that time who were worried about the rise of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), fearful that they if they were successful enough in parliamentary elections to form a government they would take the opportunity to seize private businesses and put them in public ownership.

Galliani, a Christian Democrat supporter, had more faith in the status quo being maintained and Elettronica Industriale prospered, becoming a supplier to Telemontecarlo, at the time the most successful private TV channel in Italy.

Galliani, with Dutch players Michael Reiziger (left) and Edgar Davids, was responsible for recruitment
Galliani, with Dutch players Michael Reiziger (left)
and Edgar Davids, was responsible for recruitment 
Meanwhile, Berlusconi had launched Italy’s first private television network, TeleMilano, serving the new town of Milano Due he had built with his property company, Edilnord, and had ambitions to launch a nationwide network to challenge the national public broadcaster, Rai.

The two met for the first time in November, 1979, when Berlusconi invited him for dinner at Villa San Martino, his house at Arcore in the province of Monza and Brianza. Berlusconi spelled out his ambition to launch three national commercial channels to rival the three state channels that came under the Rai umbrella and Galliani put forward the proposition to create a national network of antennae to broadcast Berlusconi’s channels.  

Berlusconi bought 50 per cent of Elettronica Industriale and together he and Galliani changed the face of Italian television, adding Canale 5, Italia 1 and Rete 4 to the choice of channels available to Italian viewers.

When Berlusconi bought AC Milan in 1986 it was natural he would turn to Galliani, a football enthusiast, to help him fulfil his dream of winning major titles with the rossoneri.  Working together, they would enjoy unparalleled success.

Galliani is now CEO at his home town club, AC Monza
Galliani is now CEO at his
home town club, AC Monza
Coached by Arrigo Sacchi, Fabio Capello, Carlo Ancelotti and Massimiliano Allegri, AC Milan won eight Serie A titles and were European champions five times, although their run of success ended in 2011 with the power in Italian football shifting to Juventus.

Galliani’s judgment in the transfer market came under scrutiny, with his decision to allow midfielder Andrea Pirlo to leave Milan on a free transfer in 2011 seen as a symbolic mistake, the World Cup winner signing for Juventus and going on to have some of the best years of his career.

Berlusconi sold AC Milan in 2017, at which point Galliani ceased to be CEO, although he remained involved in the Berlusconi business empire as a director of Berlusconi’s Fininvest company and president of Mediaset Premium.

He returned to football in 2018 as CEO of his hometown club, Monza, which had been bought by Berlusconi and was soon promoted to Serie B of the championship.

In February, 2021, Galliani contracted Covid-19 and spent 10 days in intensive care in the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan. On discharge, he admitted he feared he would die from the disease and that, after being confined to a windowless ICU, being back on a normal ward felt like being in the best room in a five-star hotel.

Married three times, Galliani has a grandson, Adrian, who was born in New York in 2001 and currently plays as a midfielder for the Greek club Olympiacos, having had a brief spell in England with Nottingham Forest.

The beautiful town of Vieste sits at the tip of the Gargano peninsula in Puglia
The beautiful town of Vieste sits at the tip of
the Gargano peninsula in Puglia
Travel tip:

Vieste, where Galliani invested in a bathing facility in the early part of his business career, is a beautiful fishing port and tourist resort at the tip of the Gargano peninsula in Puglia, a little over 90km (55 miles) east of the city of Foggia. Part of the Gargano National Park, it sits on a stretch of coastline unusual for its combination of long, sandy beaches and rocky coves. At the end of one stretch of beach is the Pizzomunno, a 25m (82ft) limestone monolith separated by erosion from the adjacent cliffs. The town, which was regularly attacked by pirates, Saracens and other enemies of the Kingdom of Naples in medieval times, also has an attractive historic centre in which the milky white stone of the buildings contrasts with the emerald green of the sea.

Monza's Duomo has an attractive facade in white and green marble
Monza's Duomo has an attractive
facade in white and green marble 
Travel tip:

Monza, where Galliani was born, is about 15km (9 miles) to the north east of Milan. It is famous for its Grand Prix motor racing circuit, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, which hosts the Formula One Italian Grand Prix. The city is also home to the Iron Crown of Lombardy, a circlet of gold with a central iron band, which according to legend, was beaten out of a nail from Christ’s true cross and was found by Saint Helena in the Holy Land. The crown is believed to have been given to the city of Monza in the sixth century and is kept in a chapel in the Cathedral of Saint John. When Napoleon Bonaparte was declared King of Italy in 1805, he was crowned in the Duomo in Milan and the Iron Crown had to be fetched from Monza before the ceremony. During his coronation, Napoleon is reported to have picked up the precious relic, announced that God had given it to him, and placed it on his own head.

Also on this day:

1626: Naples earthquake and tsunami kills 70,000 people

1909: The birth of chemist Vittorio Erspamer

2006: The death of film director Michelangelo Antonio


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