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Della Valle Backs Colosseum Project

The Italian tycoon and Saks Inc.’s largest shareholder wants to give the landmark a facelift.

By
with contributions from Sofia Celeste

MILAN — Diego Della Valle’s offer to finance the restoration of Rome’s Colosseum still must be approved by Italy’s Ministry of Culture.

The chairman and chief executive officer of Tod’s SpA last week offered to finance the restoration of one of Italy’s most grandiose monuments to the tune of 25 million euros, or $32.8 million at current exchange rate. Given that Tod’s is listed on the Milan Stock Exchange and such a project must be accounted for to the groups’ shareholders, Della Valle said he “would need to have a response in the next two to three weeks.”

Santo Versace, chairman of the family-owned company and a member of Parliament, said Della Valle’s was a “marvelous” offer and “an example to follow.” He conceded that “Italy’s legislations are not streamlined and they don’t facilitate” quickly acting on projects of this kind, but said this was a “splendid initiative from a man who loves beauty.”

Versace said the country’s bureaucracy is “devastating,” but was confident the project will be carried through.

Following Della Valle’s proposal, the Minister of Culture Sandro Bondi told national newscasts that he was “ready to discuss” the offer, “greeting with satisfaction the entrepreneur’s willingness.”

On Friday, Gianni Alemanno, mayor of Rome, said the Minister of Culture can now directly proceed to find the best offers for “what is essentially a sponsorship and not a call for bids.”

Francesco Giro, undersecretary to the Minister of Culture, said a committee of guarantors should oversee the restoration, which he described as a “relevant challenge” that demands “rigor and excellence.”

Matteo Marzotto, the former chairman of Valentino who took over the Vionnet brand last year and is president of Enit, Italy’s national agency for tourism, expressed enthusiasm about Della Valle’s offer. “Here is an entrepreneur who puts his money and his intelligence at the service of his country, in the restoration of the greatest monument and a symbol of Italy,” said Marzotto. “I strongly hope the offer will be accepted. It will work as an example for other companies to follow suit. Despite ongoing criticism, Italy takes care of its artistic patrimony.”

Much work is needed to restore the Colosseum, which dates back to 72 A.D., covers 140,400 square feet, and attracted 4.6 million visitors last year, ringing in a total of 30.4 million euros, or $42.2 million at average exchange rate. Asked what benefits he thought sponsoring the restoration would bring to the Tod’s brand, Della Valle told WWD that “there is a moment to take and there is a moment to give” and that this is a cultural project, not a commercial one.

Della Valle has always been a staunch supporter of the Made in Italy label and of Italian craftsmanship and quality. In a unique partnership, Della Valle this fall agreed to support La Scala’s productions for a year, with plans to help promote its values globally.