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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 October 2018

Exclusive: Former Ferrari chairman di Montezemolo mulls new project in Abu Dhabi

Luca Cordero di Montezemolo is considering the launch of a cultural project in the emirate that will showcase his homeland’s treasures

Former Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. The Italian is weighing up a new cultural project for Abu Dhabi. Harold Cunningham/Getty
Former Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. The Italian is weighing up a new cultural project for Abu Dhabi. Harold Cunningham/Getty

The Italian entrepreneur Luca Cordero di Montezemolo is considering the launch of a cultural project in Abu Dhabi that will showcase his homeland’s treasures and which builds on the growing art scene in the emirate.

The former Ferrari chairman, who helped develop the concept for the Ferrari World theme park on Yas Island, is eyeing the capital as the location for a venture called Casa Italia, a one-of-a-kind arts, culture and retail venue, according to sources close to the project. Following the success of Louvre Abu Dhabi, Mr Montezemolo, seen as “a kingmaker” on the Italian corporate scene and who advised on the Etihad Airways-Alitalia stake deal in 2014, becoming the Italian carrier's chairman, would be looking to build on this momentum for the local arts and culture scene.

Casa Italia would be an innovative mix of mall, science park and museum, displaying archaeology and art, while showcasing academic achievements, highlighting architecture and design and offering food and music to visitors. The idea is to also feature exhibitions such as from Milan's famous opera house La Scala or Renaissance sculptures and paintings.

There have been other Italy-related consume concepts established in the UAE, apart from Ferrari World.

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In 2013, Eataly opened in Dubai, with the high-end and gourmet Italian food court representing currently the biggest Italy-related retail concept in the UAE. Casa Italia, though, is aiming at a totally different target base, the sources said. It would not be just another retail centre, rather it would be a showcase of Italian beauty and excellence through its history, spreading from classical art to contemporary design and technology.

Mr Montezemolo’s intention is to create something unique for the city of Abu Dhabi and would mark a kind of comeback for him on the Emirati business scene.

More than one year ago, the Italian businessman was ousted as chairman of Alitalia as the company went into government-supervised administration in the wake of staff opposition to the latest restructuring plan put forward to save it. Now, he has repositioned himself in Italy as one of the most cash-rich entrepreneurs. He is set to reap the benefits of a 2 billion euro sale of a private high-speed train operator, expected to give him personally a 250 million euro gain, which could then be used to help finance the new Abu Dhabi project, the sources said.

The Casa Italia concept follows on from increased trade and business ties between Italy and the UAE. In March, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company awarded Eni two stakes in the emirate’s offshore concession areas in 40-year agreements for a combined US$875 million, marking the Italian oil major’s entry in the UAE’s oil and gas sector. Last October, UniCredit, the Italian lender in which the Abu Dhabi wealth fund Aabar has a stake, opened a corporate and investment banking branch in the capital.