A €25-million ($32-million U.S.) restoration of Rome’s Colosseum sponsored by the Tod’s luxury goods group is in danger of falling apart, just like Italy’s most visited and crumbling tourist destination.
Diego Della Valle, president and chief executive officer of Tod’s, announced on Thursday that he was suspending the agreement, reached amid much fanfare and publicity last year, pending the outcome of two judicial inquiries and a probe by Italy’s antitrust competition authority into the deal.
“This is not a commercial activity,” Mr. Della Valle insisted at a Rome press conference, rejecting what he called erroneous reports that Tod’s would benefit commercially from exclusive use of the Colosseum image for his company’s merchandise.
Restoration of the 2,000-year-old amphitheatre is supposed to begin in March and Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, has warned that pieces could continue to fall off the Colosseum unless the work is completed.
Mr. Della Valle, in announcing the suspension of the agreement having already put up €10-million, suggested adverse publicity was having a negative impact on the image of Tod’s, which is listed on the Milan stock exchange.
He also said polemics over the agreement would hardly benefit similar initiatives by other entrepreneurs “proud to help their country” at a time when public funding for preserving Italy’s cultural heritage is suffering from budget cuts.
Three separate institutions – the nation’s court auditor, the Rome magistracy and the antitrust authority – have started examining the process by which Tod’s reached the agreement with the ministry of culture and the Rome municipality, and the terms of the sponsorship. The probes were triggered by complaints by UIL, a trade union, and Codacons, a consumer organization.
Tod’s on Thursday sent the Financial Times extracts of the deal it signed last January. The terms included granting Tod’s the right to have its logo on the back of admission tickets and display it where restoration is to be carried out in “forms that are compatible with the artistic or historical” aspect of the Colosseum.
It will also promote the incorporation of a non-profit association, Friends of the Colosseum, for 15 years with use by Tod’s of the association’s logo representing the monument. Tod’s would also have exclusive rights to publicity about the restoration.
However, Tod’s told the FT that Mr. Della Valle had repeatedly stated in official documents the company’s “firm commitment not to utilize the rights set forth in the agreement for any commercial purposes.” A company official said this meant that Tod’s would not use its logo on the tickets or in the Colosseum.
The company confirmed it did not take part in the original tender and agreement was reached in separate negotiations after the ministry of culture rejected the offers it received.