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L'Espresso Group

Overview

The de Benedetti family's L'Espresso group of Italy embraces newspapers, magazines and broadcasting in competition with the Berlusconi family's Mediaset-Fininvest conglomerate and RCS MediaGroup, formerly part of the extended Agnelli interests.


The group

The group is controlled by Carlo de Benedetti through the Finegil and CIR industrial conglomerates. It centres on the daily la Repubblica, which has the second-highest circulation among Italian national daily newspapers and offers eight weekly supplements. The paper accounted for over half the group's consolidated revenues in 2001.

The group's print interests also embrace one weekly newsmagazine, two monthly, two quarterly and one yearly magazine (aggregate 12% of revenues) and 16 local newspapers. It has three radio stations (6%), a small advertising unit, multimedia activity and the satellite music television channel DeeJay TV.

The family

Carlo de Benedetti's father built a heavy engineering group in Italy and the US. His son was briefly chief executive at the Agnelli family's FIAT conglomerate (three months in 1976) before buying a stake in electronics giant Olivetti and serving as its chief executive from 1978 to 1996.

During that time he expanded his family's interests through acquisition of a range of industrial, media and consumer products businesses. He gained significant publicity in an unsucessful bid to take over the somnolent Brussels-based Société Générale de Belgique investment, finance, property and media group.

He gained control of L'Espresso following a bitter dispute with Berlusconi over control of the Mondadori printing and publishing group. Like Berlusconi he'd tangled with the Italian authorities, over takeovers and an apparently peripheral involvement in the Banco Ambrosiano scandal. L'Espresso and l'Repubblica are noted for their dour view of the current Italian PM and his business dealings.

The de Benedetti interests embrace manufacture of industrial machinery, food products (notably sweeteners), energy, telecommunications and new media. Major stakes in the Buitoni and Valeo food and auto components groups were sold in the late 1990s.

Studies

There is no major English-language study of de Benedetti or the Espresso group. For his ultimately unsuccessful efforts to reposition Olivetti see Sources of Industrial Leadership: Studies of Seven Industries (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 1999) edited by David Mowery & Richard Nelson. For la Repubblica see Sylvia Poggioli's The Media in Europe after 1992: A Case Study of La Repubblica (Cambridge: Joan Shorenstein Barone Center 1991).

Perspectives are offered by Gianpietro's 'Media Moguls in Italy' in Media Moguls (London: Routledge 1991) edited by Jeremy Tunstall, Giovanni Bechelloni's 'The Journalist as Political Client in Italy' in Newspapers & Democracy (Cambridge: MIT Press 1980) edited by Anthony Smith and Political Clientalism & the Media: Southern Europe & Latin America in Comparative Perspective (PDF) by Daniel Hallin & Stylianos Papathanassopoulos. Insights into Italian high finance are offered by Alan Friedman's Agnelli and the Network of Italian Power (London: Harrap 1988) and Paul Ginsborg's incisive Silvio Berlusconi: Television, Power & Patrimony (London: Verso 2004).