Ennio Doris, the only one who broke down the two great idiosyncrasies of his friend Berlusconi

He saw the sunsets, Berlusconi the dawns. The villa of Ennio Doris in Porto Rotondo, which belonged to Shirley Bassey, is at Punta Volpe and faces west. The Certosa of the former prime minister, at Punta Lada, instead faces east. And when Silvio went to visit Ennio at aperitif time he always told him that he envied him for this.

Doris was the only one to break down Berlusconi’s two great idiosyncrasies: the one against tall people (he was 1.90), and the one for total control of his companies. Mediolanum, in fact, is the only joint venture in which the Cavaliere has agreed to be in the minority.

It was good for both of us. A Doris, very friendly but at a safe distance, has avoided the trouble of Mani Pulite. And Berlusconi earned billions without commitment: a gold investment. Today both are among the five richest men in Italy.

They did it themselves, but Doris more: while the former premier thrived in the field of concessions (construction, TV), and therefore always needed political insights before setting up his own business with Forza Italia, the founder of Mediolanum in the 1960s he was selling policies door to door, driving around his Veneto region. He has never been helped by anyone, except once.

Legend has it that in 1981 he read the following words from Berlusconi in an interview: “If someone has an idea and wants to become an entrepreneur, come and see me. Don’t go to Agnelli or De Benedetti, they won’t receive him. I do, and if the idea is good we will realize it together “.

Doris goes to visit him in Portofino, and that’s it. Mediolanum has a huge success, in ’96 it is listed on the stock exchange, and Doris returns the favor: it brings Berlusconi into the parlor of Mediobanca who snubbed him.

Doris becomes famous with the commercial in which she draws a circle on the ground with her stick, pronouncing the slogan “A bank around you”. But it is the only exception made to its total confidentiality, the antipodes of Berlusconi’s exuberance.

He gave me one of his rare interviews in July 2020, for his 80th birthday.
He had just arrived in Sardinia after the lockdown with his grandchildren in the Venetian mountains. He had had a Zoom meeting station installed on the first floor of the mansion.

In the living room only his wife Lina with a friend. No glamorous court, like in the other villa. A wave of optimistic energy: “Thanks to the virus we have accelerated changes such as smart working, which otherwise we would have taken years to implement”.

Very Catholic, for half an interview he told me about the exploits of Chiara Amirante and her community Nuovi Orizzonti, who benefited generously. This summer I offered him a replay of the interview, but he was already sick.
The 53-year-old son Massimo, who has led Mediolanum for about ten years, has just had director Fernan Ozpetek make a corporate film: ‘The man who invented the future’. For forty years Ennio Doris has managed the future (savings) of millions of Italians.

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Zach Shipman

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