Donations to Restore Rome’s Colosseum Encourages Corporate Philanthropy

corporate philanthropy, philanthropyTo Rome, With Love is a recent Wall Street Journal article highlighting the funding of the restoration of the Colosseum in Rome by Diego Della Valle, the billionaire president and CEO of the luxury group Tod’s.

His group has contracted to give $25million Euros to this endeavor. This gift is nearly half of the government’s entire budget for projects of this type. In 2009 Rome’s mayor began to solicit private corporate donations for the restoration, packaging it as corporate sponsorships.

Originally 20 companies were interested. In the end Tod’s beat out the Irish airline Ryannair for sponsorship of this restoration because Tod’s agreed not to use it for advertising. The Ryannair proposal wrapped the Coliseum in advertising banners. The Tod’s donation has sparked controversy over a “rights of image” clause that allows Tod’s use of the Colosseum for preapproved corporate events.

A member of the Ministry of Culture is quoted in the article as saying that most of the debate is occurring because Italy has almost no culture of private philanthropy and few rules to regulated it. Private funding of public cultural endeavors is very rare and for much lower amounts, and there has been no precedent for a donation like this one.

The Italian consumer protection agency, Codacons, tied up the agreement in court for two years because they were concerned that the use for preapproved corporate events could be used to smear logos over the Colosseum. The court dismissed Codacons case saying it did not have legal standing to test the contract. The funds were unused for two years and the restoration plan is now underway. The controversy has sparked additional corporate philanthropy in Italy – Fendi has now agreed to restore the Trevi Fountain and Diesel has pledged to restore Venice’s Rialto Bridge.

Della Valle noted that not only is private funding of Italy’s enormous cultural legacy of profound social value, it employs Italian citizens, tourists will continue to enjoy the historic sites and the Italian economy will be better for it.

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