Italo moguls’ life not so beautiful

Manager put in charge of selling off assets

Italo producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori, the once mighty movie mogul behind hits including “Life Is Beautiful” and “Mediterraneo,” was declared bankrupt by a Rome court on Tuesday.

Cecchi Gori has been on the brink of financial collapse since 2002, when creditors, including Merrill Lynch and several Italian banks, took legal action as his company’s debts spiraled to more than e600 million ($752 million).

Ending the lengthy legal proceedings, a court-appointed manager has been put in charge of selling off Cecchi Gori Group assets, the most valuable of which is a library of 1,200 Italian and international titles, including Italo rights to most of the James Bond franchise.

In 1998 Merrill Lynch issued Cecchi Gori bonds backed by this library for a reported $290 million.

Cecchi Gori’s exhibition assets, which include the Cecchi Gori Fine Arts Cinema in Los Angeles and Rome’s lucrative Adriano multiplex, have been excluded from the bankruptcy proceedings.

“It’s a totally unexpected and inexplicable ruling,” said Cecchi Gori in a statement. He claimed he had worked out a debt-payment agreement and said he was filing an appeal.

Cecchi Gori Group has been awash in red ink ever since the mid-1990s, when it branched out from film into TV production and acquired the A.C. Fiorentina soccer club.

While no longer active in TV or sports, the company has produced several local comedies over the past few years.

A more high-profile international project, an adaptation of the novel “Victoria’s Dance” by Chilean author Antonio Skarmeta, was in the pipeline, with Spanish helmer Fernando Trueba attached to direct.

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