Rocco B. Commisso, the billionaire chairman of the cable provider Mediacom, is the new owner of the Italian soccer club A.C.F. Fiorentina in a deal he described as the “quickest closing in soccer history.”
Commisso was born in Marina di Gioiosa Ionica, Calabria and moved to the United States when he was twelve, indicated that the deal was completed within a remarkably short time frame of three weeks following his submission of a letter of intent to purchase the Florence-based team.
“There’s going to be a tremendous amount of effort, work, passion and money all going to be put in to make sure we have a better season than we had last year,” said the new owner.
The 69-year-old Commisso, a graduate of Columbia University and a resident of Saddle River, New Jersey, is also the chairman of the New York Cosmos. The club has a long history but it has faced a near insurmountable challenge in U.S. soccer trying to reach the top tier, which has no system of promotion and relegation, such as is found in European leagues. Although Commisso has had numerous disputes with U.S. Soccer, he also expanded his horizons by evaluating the purchase of a team in Europe; a search that has taken the better part of three years. He was unable to reach terms last year to purchase A.C. Milan, one of Italy’s most storied teams and has had opportunities to buy teams in numerous countries, before ultimately acquiring Fiorentina.
“Given the fact I was born in Italy, my love for Italian soccer and what soccer has done for me, I wanted to eventually buy a quality team here in Italy and I’m very proud, happy and honored to buy Fiorentina, a club that’s got great traditions,” Commisso said.
The team, known as the Viola, or the violets, last won the Italian Cup in 2001. The last few years of ownership had been fraught with difficulty and a decline in the popularity of the team. Commisso declined to reveal the cost of his latest acquisition, but news reports suggest it was between $150 and $200 million.
In buying Fiorentina, Mr. Commisso joins a growing list of American owners in Italian soccer. Milan is owned by the Elliott Management hedge fund; A.S. Roma is backed by the billionaire James Pallotta and famed New York lawyer Joseph Tacopina is the chairman/owner of Venezia F.C.
As with most Italian teams, Fiorentina’s home arena, Stadio Artemio Franchi, is owned by the city. It is also dated when compared to modern arenas in Europe’s other top leagues and sports franchises in the United States.
Commisso said he did not want to make false promises to Fiorentina’s fans, but he pledged that a review of what could be done about the team’s stadium would be part of a comprehensive review of club operations. “We are looking at everything,” he said. “I’m a man, for those that know me, who never overpromises. I want to start slowly, learn a lot about the team and eventually to set them on a good path to succeed. How long it takes, I don’t know.”