The weekly publications he founded sell 2 million copies a week: the highest circulating at Italian newsstands. He’s also growing in the television sector with La7, whilst Torino F.C. keeps the football fans happy
«I’ve always been, and still am, full of dreams. Dreams that I may have had for many years, but that I’ve made happen: becoming a businessman, television broadcaster and publisher, the chairman of a football team, and so on and so forth. And who hasn’t dreamt of having a team in Italy’s premier league?» At the age of 58, Urbano Cairo is famed for turning everything he touches to gold. Just look at what he’s achieved in times of crisis (publishing house Giorgio Mondadori, television channel La7, Torino F.C.), bringing them unexpected and undreamt of success into the present day, in which he manages a group that makes €277 million a year, plus around €80 million from Torino F.C.
The eight weekly publications he’s founded since 2004 (the latest being Nuovo TV) sell 2 million copies a week: the highest circulating at Italian newsstands. La7 is also going great guns («I’ve ended up doing what I proposed to Silvio Berlusconi in 1981 myself»), and Torino F.C. keeps the football fans happy. Cairo also owns 4.6% of Rcs. Can the man who joined King Silvio’s court at such a young age possibly have any other dreams left to realise? Cairo is still not satisfied, and no challenge is too big for him, as is clear from what he has achieved so far.
«If I became a big fish it’s also thanks to Capital, he says. «Between 1979 and 1980, while I was still a student at the Bocconi, I went to the Usa for six months, where I learned how American commercial Tv developed, in particular Cbs. I went back to Italy just as Canale 5 was born. Then, I read an interview in Capital with Berlusconi: if there are any young people with good ideas out there, he said, call me and I’ll listen. I have to meet him, I thought to myself. So I picked up a telephone book, found the number for Edilnord, called the switchboard, and managed to get hold of Silvio’s secretary. She gave me no reason to hope though; the boss was too busy, she said. Three hours later I called her back: listen, I have to tell Mr Berlusconi about a couple of things that shook the American television market, if you don’t let me speak to him he’ll regret it. It did the trick: three days later I was summoned and finally met Silvio. One of my two ideas, to create a regional television network that would be more attractive to advertisers, he was already doing. The other, to invest in telecommunications, was impossible back then due to the laws on interconnection. But Berlusconi was struck by my drive, and gave me a trial period as his assistant. The only thing was that back then I was doing my military service, and still had to graduate. I started going to the barracks in the morning, spending the afternoon at the office and then in the evening after dinner I worked on my thesis. Then I was discharged, graduated, and as of 1 January 1982 I started working full time».
Cairo’s career took off: he worked as an assistant for Berlusconi for three years, and became sales manager and vice director general of Publitalia and the advertising division of Mondadori. He was so fast and insatiable that it earned him a nickname he still likes to this day: Velociraptor, a prehistoric and incredibly fast animal when it comes to getting what it wants. «It’s a nickname that’s always made be smile». In 1995, upon leaving the Fininvest Group, he founded Cairo Pubblicità, in 1999 he bought publishing house Giorgio Mondadori (now Cairo Editore), and in 2000 he listed the holding Cairo Communication (which he holds 73% of the shares in) on the stock exchange. Then in 2003 he founded Cairo Editore, whose magazines include, among others, Di Più (the biggest-selling weekly in Italy), Diva e Donna and F. In 2005 he bought Torino F.C., taking it straight into the Italian premier league, and in 2013 e took over La7, which, of course, started doing well.
A fiery rebirth, which years later, he would say made him feel like the Count of Monte Cristo. Meaning? «Although I didn’t have the misfortunes of Alexandre Dumas’ hero, I had my problems and a spate of bad luck, suddenly finding myself at a crossroads. Like the Count of Monte Cristo, however, I made a miracle happen and made a comeback». Can I possibly have any dreams left to realise? «You never reveal your dreams. In fact, a condition for making them come true is to never say them out loud. What is important though, is that when you have a dream, you focus all your energy on it, day and night». You bite into it like a velociraptor and never let go.