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“It’s [35 miles] from the sea and [31 miles] from the Alps, so there’s a microclimate, and clay in the land. It’s a unique territory,” he explains. It generates around 500,000 euros, or $688,000 at current exchange, and comprises production of about 15,000 bottles a year. The vineyards produce the following: Bianco di Rosso, at 88 euros a bottle ($121); Rosso di Rosso, at 110 euros ($151); Nero di Rosso, at 95 euros ($130), and Olio di Rosso at 21 euros ($29). There is also an Olio di Rosso Riserva at 22 euros ($30). Smiling, he says he enjoys selling the bottles himself to top restaurants. His own favorites beyond Diesel Farm’s production include Chateau Cheval Blanc, Brunello di Montalcino di Soldera, Opus One Mondavi, Chateau Margaux and Romanée-Conti Petrus.
Rosso supports another sustainable business: electric cars. Through Red Circle Investments, he owns 30 percent of Estrima, which produces electric Birò cars. “They are small and fantastic, I use mine every weekend,” he enthuses.
Rosso also uses Red Circle to acquire minority stakes in “small companies we believe can become important.” He was an early supporter of the publicly listed Yoox Group, founded by Federico Marchetti, and, as of a September filing, he held 8.6 percent of the Italian online fashion retailer.
Giving back—and his promise to the Dalai Lama—remain priorities for Rosso. Main projects of the Only the Brave Foundation include a partnership with Millennium Promise for the sustainable development of the Only the Brave Millennium Village of Dioro, in Mali; donations to the Ethiopian Education Foundation, and the construction of schools in Sierra Leone. The foundation paired with Edun and its founders, Ali Hewson and Bono, and the Conservation Cotton Initiative for a co-branded Diesel and Edun collection to promote trade and development in Africa. It launched last year. With the Foundation’s support, the FIABE association, an organization that helps Ethiopian children, is developing a project to bring clean water to the Southern Ethiopian communities of Oromia, Kembatta and Wolayta.
Part of the Foundation, the Brave Circle Fund has already distributed more than 2 million euros, or $2.7 million, to help restart activities locally. Ten percent of the foundation’s funds are aimed at the territory, to buy “church bells,” for example, Rosso reports. Last year, Rosso marked Diesel’s 35th anniversary by donating almost $750,000 to the foundation.
Separately, last year Rosso launched C.A.S.H., a facilitated line of credit. The entrepreneur has also pledged to donate 5.5 million euros, or $6.9 million, to restore Venice’s Ponte di Rialto. “Companies that are profitable have an obligation to support the public administration, which is generally overburdened with costs,” says Rosso. “I hope work will begin in three or four months. It will take three years for the restoration to be completed.” He is also supporting work on the main bridge in Bassano, where he lives.
He also owns a boat, Lady May, which he considers his second house, but he is not keen on indulging in homes around the world. “I like a lived-in house, with a full fridge and a fireplace going. I don’t believe in those houses where you go just now and again, I would rather stay in beautiful hotels—and in the same room,” he says, citing the Mercer Hotel (room 610) and the Chateau Marmont (room 29) as two of his favorites. Incidentally, Rosso owns a hotel in Miami, the Pelican, and he is a partner in André Balazs’ latest project, the Fire Station Hotel in London, which officially opens May 1. Rosso bought the 1929 Lady May at the end of the Eighties, as his friend, the late Stefano Casiraghi, husband of Monaco’s Princess Caroline, bought Pacha, its twin boat.
“It’s not a big one, it’s a bijoux, all in wood and I feel pampered in it,” says Rosso of Lady May, which he sails in the Mediterranean during the summer—although this is one place he doesn’t take the helm. “I am not afraid of flying or sailing, but I leave that to professionals,” he laughs.
Rosso counts a helicopter and a company plane, a Falcon 7, which “can fly to Los Angeles or Japan, customized with a special color. I was the first to do a metallized plane and the first to have Wi-Fi in a helicopter,” he says.
Despite his whirlwind calendar and dizzying number of projects, Rosso, who has six children—Stefano is co-ceo of OTB and Andrea is creative director of all Diesel licenses—doesn’t stray from Italian tradition. When asked about his free time, his responds: “I play soccer every Sunday morning in Bassano.”