MILAN — Tod’s SpA has become a member of the Teatro alla Scala Foundation, further consolidating its ties with the famed Italian theater.

This story first appeared in the June 10, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Tod’s will donate 5.2 million euros, or $7.6 million at current exchange, to La Scala, to be paid over a maximum of four years, beginning Jan. 1. Tod’s is the ninth member of the foundation, joining groups such as insurer Assicurazioni Generali SpA, Italy’s multinational oil and gas company Eni SpA, and Fininvest Srl, the holding controlled by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Last fall, Tod’s chairman and chief executive officer Diego Della Valle agreed to contribute to support La Scala’s productions for a year and help promote its values globally, also linking the Tod’s brand with the theater through the production of a short film called “An Italian Dream.”

“We are proud and honored to support one of the biggest symbols of Italian culture, admired globally,” said Della Valle during a press conference held at the theater on Thursday. Della Valle said he felt it was not only “a must to assist in preserving the excellence of Italian culture and the country’s good reputation,” but that it came naturally. The entrepreneur also views this as a way to “attract more and more people from all over the world in a collaboration that can help the economy grow by creating new jobs, especially for the new generation. There is no immediate return for our investment.”

Della Valle also said he had taken it upon himself to involve other entrepreneurs in sponsoring works on other Italian landmarks, such as Venice or Pompeii. Della Valle, who’s often been rumored to be considering entering the political arena, and even publicly feuded with Berlusconi, downplayed any political implication. “There is no need for polemic discussions, and we are not in juxtaposition with any politician,” he said.

Stéphane Lissner, general manager and artistic director of La Scala, said the decision to allow Tod’s in the foundation was approved unanimously by the theater. He noted the “Italian dream” video, which traveled around the world, was extremely successful. Other special projects are in the works, but Della Valle said it was premature to discuss them. Financing at La Scala, which has an average of 450,000 spectators a season, is expected to come in at 116 million euros, or $170 million, in 2011. Of that figure, 54 percent is provided by private donations.

The high-profile sponsorship follows the announcement in December that Della Valle offered to finance the work needed to restore the Colosseum in Rome through a sponsorship of 25 million euros, or $36.5 million at current exchange rates. On June 22, the entrepreneur will hold a press conference at the historic amphitheater to illustrate the project and the work already done on the monument.

Pressed on the sidelines of the conference for a comment on his investment in Saks Inc., Della Valle, who also has shares in several ventures including a high-speed train with Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo to eyewear maker Marcolin and iconic coffee-machine maker Bialetti, demurred. “The investment in Saks is going well. We soon hope to be able to give very positive signs of our Made in Italy [brands] there, too,” he said.

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