On 11 January, Claudio Sposito, president and chief executive of Milan-based private equity firm Clessidra, died at the age of 60 following a short illness. His legacy to the private equity industry is a firm, now working on its third fund, that has raised over €2 billion and invested in more than 21 Italian businesses since its inception in 2003.
Clessidra has subsequently approved the appointment of a new chairman and CEO; Francesco Trapani, currently executive vice-chairman, will take on the chairman’s role, while partner and head of the investment team Maurizio Bottinelli will become chief executive.
“The demise of Claudio, whom we were close to both professionally and personally, is a moment of deep emotion and suffering for us,” said Trapani in a statement. “We have decided to pursue a path consistent with his leadership and will, in respect of how much he meant to the company and the entire industry.”
Bottinelli added: “Claudio’s memory and values will be a further motivation to work closely, in order to consolidate the credibility and good reputation that Clessidra has successfully built throughout the years in Italy and abroad.”
In 2009, at the nadir of the financial crisis, Private Equity International’s then editor Andy Thomson visited Sposito in Milan, profiling the man and his firm for our Privately Speaking column.
“He clearly took great pride, and a granular interest, in the various activities of the firm’s portfolio companies,” remembers Thomson. “Perhaps my abiding memory of the day, aside from the presence of the ubiquitous hourglasses which were a constant reminder of the company’s name, was studying with him a collection of monstrous-looking toy figurines made by portfolio company Gormiti as he sought to explain to me their popularity.”
Sposito is survived by his wife Manuela and two children, Benedetta and Tommaso.
The following passages are from Sposito’s 2009 interview with Private Equity International:
Sposito is seated opposite me in the boardroom of his firm’s inconspicuous office in Via del Lauro, a narrow, winding street that’s also surprisingly quiet given its central location just a short distance from Milan’s world-famous La Scala opera house. When Clessidra was launched in 2003, the tranquillity of the surroundings may have come as a relief to Sposito given the relentless media noise associated with his prior role as chief executive of Fininvest, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s holding company, which Berlusconi founded in the 1960s.
It was in 2003 that Sposito set out to apply his experience to the private equity world. He recalls: “I thought the Italian [private equity] market was not fully developed and that there was room for a different player — an entity that would be very Italian in its approach and mentality but with the capacity and the capability to execute larger deals. Such a player would be institutional, like a global private equity firm, but with a country focus.
“We were perceived as part of the Italian financial establishment, in a country where, at the time, private equity was seen as a marginal phenomenon.”