Calisto Tanzi speaks to his lawyers in a Milan court in 2005
Photo: Reuters Photographer / REUTERS
The Italian entrepreneur Calisto Tanzi, founder of the former milk empire Parmalat, died on Saturday at the age of 83. Tanzi transformed a small family dairy company into the multinational food company Parmalat, which then collapsed in one of the biggest bankruptcy scandals in Italian history. Tanzi died of pneumonia in a hospital in his hometown Parma, after which he had named his company.
Parmalat collapsed in 2003 when a € 14 billion hole was exposed on its balance sheet that wiped out the savings of thousands of retail investors in bankruptcy.
The company had overstated its profits and sales for years.
The bankruptcy sparked legal disputes against dozen of banks around the world.
Tanzi faced a number of lawsuits along with other company executives and prominent Italian bankers.
He was found guilty of market manipulation, fraudulent bankruptcy and other allegations and received multiple prison terms.
Soaring not only in the milk market
Born in the small town of Collecchio in 1938, he took over his grandfather's local dairy company at the age of 22.
More than four decades later, the Parmalat Group had around 130 factories around the world producing milk, yogurt and other food products.
His company also included a top division soccer club - Parma FC, which won the UEFA Cup twice under Tanzi’s ownership -, a tourism company, and a television station.
He also sponsored ski and Formula 1 racing teams.
The Parmalat Crisis, known in Italy as "Crac Parmalat", broke out in 2003 when the company announced that a € 4 billion bank account did not exist in the Cayman Islands.
That forced management to file for bankruptcy protection and sparked a criminal investigation into fraud.
During the subsequent investigations, the authorities found, among other things, that Tanzi had hidden art treasures by masters such as Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh in friends' apartments.
The works of art were auctioned in 2019.
col / Reuters