Who Owns The Giro d’Italia?

Who owns the Giro d’Italia? If you’re about to say RCS, don’t because you’d be wrong. RCS are the organisers of the race but they don’t own it. Could it be Urbano Cairo, the man who controls RCS today? No, it’s not him either…

RCS is RCS MediaGroup SpA, an Italy company from Milan which got its initials afer the merger of the publisher Rizzoli with the Corriere della Sera, a newspaper. In 1976 RCS took over the Gazzetta Dello Sport newspaper and with this came the Giro d’Italia, La Gazzetta having created the Giro from the start. RCS Media shares are on the Italian stock exchange so you can buy yourself a slice of the company that runs the Giro.

In 2016 Italian media tycoon Urbano Cairo bought a big slice, he took control of the RCS and today owns approximately 60% of the shares in RCS. But neither RCS nor Cairo owns the Giro.

So who does? Look closely at the pink pages of La Gazzetta and towards the back of each day’s edition there’s a page with a little box with the paper’s contact details, subscription prices, the name of the editor, size of the print run and among the small print is also the line “testata di proprietà A Bonacossa” this identifies the owner of the newspaper: Alberta Bonacossa.

Alberto Bonacossa was an aristocrat big into his sports, he played tennis, did figure skating, collected stamps especially if they had sports themes and was instrumental in setting up various Italian sports bodies such as the ski federation and the Italian Olympic committee. He acquired a majority stake in La Gazzetta in 1929. Jump to 1976 and RCS’s deal to buy La Gazzetta Dello Sport and didn’t actually include owning the newspaper, instead it was more a deal to rent and publish it and the Bonacossa family to this day owns the title to the newspaper. So Countess Bonacossa is the real owner of the Giro d’Italia.

The Countess can be seen at the Giro sometimes when it arrives in Milan. That’s her on the right of the image. But this is going to be a short blog post because there’s not much more to add. John Foot’s excellent Pedalare! book on the history of Italian cycling has no mention. Her family is quite private and so the business deal even more. But now you know who owns the Giro d’Italia.

8 thoughts on “Who Owns The Giro d’Italia?”

  1. Thank you for this lovely quick read to while away a little time between Greipel winning his second race this year and the inevitable bunch sprint at the Giro. This is one more thing that makes the Giro feel more “old school” relative to many bike races.

  2. Yes very interesting.
    Also that the family acquired the Giro in the late 1920s, at the time that Fascism was on the rise in Italy.
    That’s not to say, of course, that the two are connected in any way but certainly the Fascists were enabled by Italian business and aristocracy as a means of combating the surge in left wing politics among workers then (the quarry workers at Carrara in Tuscany were considered amongst the most reactionary at that time).
    But also a movement to “make Italy great again”.
    How did the Giro fare during Mussolini’s reign and World War 2?

    There was also a great economic depression in the 1920s and it could be that the race’s ownership is more connected to that?

    • Really interesting IR – thanks! Impressive how a public profile can be so low when you own the major sports paper and the biggest race in Italy (so much so that this article is among the top hits when you Google search for Alberta Bonacossa). In terms of a connection to Mussolini, the German Wikipedia article on Alberto Bonacossa has more info than either English or Italian versions, and indicates that there was a link, but tough to get much context.

      • Reading more about Bonacossa, you can find a long account about him here: https://www.cairn-int.info/article-E_STA_125_0107–between-national-and-olympic-fidelity.htm

        The short version in the article’s conclusion is “However, he was always loyal to any Italian government: firstly liberal, then fascist and finally Republican” but read as it’s more nuanced.

        Also it’s only ownership, there seems to be little influence, possibly none at all. There’s been talk in the past in the Italian financial media about RCS selling off La Gazzetta (and with it the Giro) as the newspaper’s circulation has been shrinking a lot. But how this would require Countess Bonacossa’s approval and suggestions this is not automatic, that the deal could be blocked.

    • No Giro since Coppi’s 1940 breakthrough win, the young gregario storming to victory when his captain at Legnano, superstar Bartali, got injured and subsequently helped him through… until 1946, quite an adventurous edition, full of political and historical implication starting with route design itself, when an aging Bartali got the best for less than a minute over his now nearly superhuman rival, who was then riding for Bianchi. Third man Magni was prevented from competing by the UVI, apparently because of his personal commitment in favour of fascism.

      The Giro wasn’t back then second to the Tour, as it started to be, in different proportions, since the 60s.

      In 1938 Bartali would have liked to skip the Tour, where he had started the year before as the Giro winner only to go through an awful experience, falling down a bridge into a rocky creek when he was wearing yellow during stage 8. He lost some ten minutes but he was still leading, and despite the multiple cuts, injured ribs and a bronchitis he went through the Alps and three more stages before eventually withdrawing in Marseille.
      However, political pressures by the fascist regime made him start that 1938 Tour which he duly won – but he always refused to celebrate with the fascist salute, switching it with paying homage to the Virgin Mary or the likes. That wasn’t very much appreciated by the fascist hierarchs…

      • Thank you both, so interesting.
        I get the impression that the race is in good hands actually with the Bonacossa family.

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