Rocco Commisso is the Italian-American entrepreneur who took over Fiorentina from the Della Valle brothers in 2019 for about 165 million dollars. His is a beautiful story, which starts from music, passes through football and ends with business.
Fiorentina are the fifth Serie A team (after Milan, Inter, Roma and Bologna) to end up in foreign hands. In reality, those of Rocco Commisso, 69, are not so foreign. Yes, because the entrepreneur who took over the viola company from the Della Valle brothers for about 165 million euros was born in Italy. Calabrian from Gioiosa Ionica, as a child he played football with courage and obstinacy, so much so that he earned the nickname of Pitozzu (the sound of falling stone, to identify who is hard as a stone). «I was always with the ball at my feet on the beaches of my country, the ball was made of rags and old underwear. I’ve never had a gift, but my mom, Rosina, never made me feel poor, “he said. Then, in 1962, when he was 12, his family emigrated to the United States, first to Pittsburgh and then to New York.
From football to music
In addition to football, the young Rocco has another passion: music. He doesn’t play piano or violin, elite instruments, but the accordion. In the summer of 1963, while strolling in the Bronx, the working-class neighborhood in which he lives, he notices a billboard advertising a musical talent show, organized by the Wakefield Theater, on the elevated subway. Rocco participates and wins, but exchanges the scholarship for the Berkeley Conservatory for a letter of reference for the Mount Saint Michel Academy, a Catholic school where he had not been admitted because enrollments had already been closed. The headmaster appreciates her courage and makes a tear: reopens them and admits it. To support himself at school, however, Rocco also has to work 40 hours a week in his brother’s pizzeria. And he also goes to school in the summer, to carry on with the program. The music fades into the background and football regains altitude. Rocco is good, and is reported for an audition at Columbia University. The audition went well and earned him a full scholarship of $ 75,000. Rocco plays at high levels, even coming to audition for the US Olympic National team in 1972.
From manager to entrepreneur
But its vocation is still another: to establish itself in the business. Commisso goes to work in the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, then opens a nightclub (where he exhibits, among others, the country cousins and the Homo sapiens). After his master’s in business administration, he is the only Italian-American to be hired by Chase Manhattan Bank. His career flies, but up to a certain point. As an Italian-American, they don’t consider him up to par with the most important customers. But he is smart and stands out. A German manager moves him to another division, the one that deals with communication and TV. Here he accumulates know-how and experience, which will make him make the leap in quality.
In 1986 he moved to Cablevision Industries, where he held management positions, taking it from 25th to 8th place in the sector. In 1995, the company was acquired by Time Warner. In the same year, Commisso founded (tradition has it done in the basement of his house) MediacomCable. Today MediacomCable is the fifth largest cable TV operator in the US, has 4,600 employees and 1.4 million customers in 22 states, for an annual turnover that exceeds 1.8 billion dollars. According to Forbes, Commisso’s personal fortune is $ 4.7 billion. The only drawback is the high debt.
From Cosmos to Fiorentina
The love for football remains a constant in his life. In 2013, following his generous donations, he gets the Columbia University stadium named after him. In 2017 he bought the New York Cosmos team, of which he is also president. And now, despite being a Juventus fan (historical enemy of the purple team), he has bought Fiorentina. «I don’t feel like a boss, rather a fan who lives for football. The steak? I’m sure it’s better than what we eat in New York. How should you call me? Rocco! So I was born and so I still am. Even in America I have always called myself this: Mr. Rocco. I hope to stay in Florence often, however, I was born in Italy and my roots are here »said Commisso. Married to Catherine, he has two children. “I have always tried to affirm who I am, or rather my being Italian, in everything I have done”.