Tag Archives: AS Roma

Forza, Venezia!

New Yorkers know Joe Tacopina as a famous attorney. He’s defended the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Michael Jackson and Bernard Kerik. The New York Times said, “Mr. Tacopina is to the defense bar what Donald Trump is to real estate.”

Westporters know him as a friend and neighbor.

Italians know Tacopina as the man who is bringing American sports business management to some of the top soccer clubs in the world.

Joe Tacopina

Joe Tacopina

Tacopina — whose parents were born in Rome, who has dual US and Italian citizenship, and who says “soccer is in my blood” — was a director of world-renowned AS Roma, the 1st foreign-owned club in Serie A (the Italian top division).

He spent 11 months as president of Bologna — another Serie A  team.

Now he’s working his magic at Venezia. Venice’s team is languishing in Serie D — Italy’s 4th division. But Tacopina hopes to drive the side to the top.

He’s not doing it alone. His fellow investors include several Westporters.

It’s no easy task. Italian soccer is notoriously cutthroat.

And Tacopina is keeping his day job. “I sacrifice sleep,” he says. When he’s in Venice, he Skypes at night with his New York law office.

Yet, he insists, “this is a labor of passion.”

When he first went to Italy for legal work, he stayed over on weekends so he could attend professional soccer matches.

“I was captivated by the emotional experience,” he says. “You can’t explain it to someone who has never been there. Huge crowds singing and chanting in unison for 2 hours — you feel the entire stadium move. You get goosebumps.”

A typical scene in Serie A.

A typical scene in Serie A.

However, he says, a decade ago “the game and fan experience was slipping. Stadiums were antiquated and dirty.”

He wrote some suggestions for the Italian soccer federation on the back of a napkin. A friend suggested a better idea: Buy a team and fix it.

That’s what Tacopina did, again and again.

RomaImporting a North  American sports business model, he helped triple Roma’s valuation to over $400 million. In less than a year, Bologna’s valuation tripled too.

In July, Tacopina became the 1st foreigner to win the Carlino D’Oro. The annual award is presented for contributions to Italian soccer.

Venice can be “the biggest success story yet,” Tacopina says. “There’s enormous upside.”

Westport businessman Jim Daniels — whose 2 sons play Staples High School soccer — and sports attorney John Goldman are fellow investors. Financial guru Mark Gudis — another Westporter, with one Staples soccer alum and a current senior player — has consulted on the project.

Tacopina and his partners know what to do on the business side: raise brand awareness and revenues.

On the sporting side, Tacopina says, “I think I know. But I don’t try to pick all the players.” He’s hired Giorgio Perinetti — the man who brought Diego Maradona to Italy — as sporting director.

Joe Tacopina at Venezia

Joe Tacopina at Venezia

The new owners have a 5-year plan. It includes a 28,000-seat stadium project (the mayor has pledged land near the airport), and selling naming rights to major corporations.

Venice is one of the world’s most famous cities. But, Tacopina says, its fan base has been neglected and dormant for years. They’re waking up: The 1st match under the new regime drew the biggest crowd in 15 years.

This season, Venezia is undefeated — 9-0-2.

“It’s very exciting in terms of both soccer and business,” Tacopina notes. “The Wall Street Journal says that for anyone who wants to buy a professional team in an elite league, Italian soccer is the only place where something is undervalued.”

The Venezia club sold for $6 million, though the new owners will investment more in improvements.

By contrast, the Los Angeles Clippers — “the 2nd team in the city, without their own arena” — sold for $2 billion, Tacopina says.

But the money seems almost secondary to the soccer.

“This is a special project to me,” Tacopina says. “It’s my passion. And I’m doing this with my Westport friends.”



Joe Tacopina: All Westport Roads Lead To Roma

In the hard-hitting world of criminal defense lawyers, Joe Tacopina hits harder than almost anyone.

His website pulls no punches.

“Mr. Tacopina is to the defense bar what Donald Trump is to real estate,” reads a what-the-hell-does-that-mean? quote from the New York Times.

“That guy works magic. He is the real deal. He’s not to be messed with,” burbles Imus.

And this, from GQ:

Suspected of murdering that blond girl in Aruba? Having some problems with your appointment as homeland-security chief? Made the mistake of having sex with Christie Brinkley’s husband? Call Joe Tacopina, the best-dressed, smoothest-talking, hardest-working criminal-defense attorney going…

Joe Tacopina (Photo/Nancy Siesel for the New York Times)

Last June Tacopina — a Westporter and the father of 5 children, including a soon-to-be Staples graduate — gave the parent speech at baccalaureate. He described his rags-to-riches life, including an anecdote about working so hard for so little money early in his career that he took on a 2nd job: checking coats at Longshore. (The worst part: seeing other attorneys there — or clients.)

Now Tacopina is following the lead of the latest trend: what the Times calls “American moneymen” buying world-famous soccer teams. The list includes Malcolm Glazer (Manchester United) and Randy Lerner (Aston Villa).

Tacopina is part of a group that in August bought 60% of legendary Italian club A.S. Roma. The club is valued at $400 million.

According to a story in yesterday’s Times, Tacopina has a “life-long obsession” with Roma. Seven years ago, watching a match, he had an epiphany.

The scoreboard didn’t work; I wanted to buy my children some jerseys, but there were none on sale; and it was dirty,” he said. “I started writing notes to myself on a napkin that had been around a flatbread sandwich. Why not find a group to buy it?

Tacopina is now vice president of the club. He’s helped overhaul the team, adding youthful players to the mix of veterans that includes big names like Francesco Totti.

According to the Times,

the club’s new owners believe Roma is well positioned to emerge as the next big global brand in soccer. It is a club located at a unique intersection of global culture. The ownership’s idea is to increase revenue by investing in players who deliver results on the field that further increase revenue.

Part of the plan is a proposal for a new stadium, tied to Italy’s intention to bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics, to replace the crumbling, fan-unfriendly Estadio Olimpico, where a running track keeps the fans far from the action and another team, Lazio, shares the facility.

Tacopina is well positioned to help bring back Roma’s glory years. His father — who died last week at 94 — emigrated to the US from Rome. The club’s fans have displayed a banner that says: “Tacopina Uno di Noi, Grazie Joe“– Thanks, Joe. You’re one of us!

As a Westporter, I’m excited that one of us has taken a big step onto the international soccer stage.

As the Staples soccer coach, I’d be even more excited if he brings a 17-year-old player from Roma’s youth team to spend next fall in the Tacopinas’ Westport home.