Year Inducted: 1997
Disney experienced unprecedented growth in Italy during the tenure of former president of Walt Disney Creations S.p.A., Antonio Bertini. As the Company’s annual income base increased from an estimated $74 million to $300 million, Antonio expanded merchandising from 30 to nearly 100 licensees. These licensees produced various Disney-themed products for the Italian marketplace.
Antonio’s optimistic business philosophy proved itself true. As he explained, “There is always a market. There is never a problem when you give a good product at the right price.” He added: “And Disney is a very good product.”
Born in Milan, Italy, on January 13, 1927, Antonio was the only child of a metalworker and homemaker. He attended the nearby University of Pavia and, as a student there, presented a paper on a little-known concept in the country at the time—market research. In 1955, he graduated with a Ph.D. in political science.
After school, he began his career as a planning officer at Lever Brothers in Milan, coordinating the operating, marketing, and publicity plans of four Italian factories which produced such products as soap, perfume, and margarine. In 1960, Antonio answered an anonymous ad in the local newspaper for a job. Little did he know at the time, the company was Walt Disney Productions and he was about to embark on a lifelong career.
Antonio joined Disney on July 1, 1960, as an assistant to the Company’s Italian sales representative, Major John “Jack” William Holmes. Within one month, Antonio negotiated a number of new contracts with licensees to create such products as Disney-themed tablecloths, toys, and figurines; this subsequently increased Company profits by 25 million Italian lira. His stellar efforts were rewarded a year later, when he was promoted to sales manager and invited to join the Company’s Board of Directors. Two years later, Roy O. Disney personally named Antonio president of Walt Disney Creations S.p.A.
In 1978, Antonio initiated the production and marketing of 8-mm and 16-mm Disney shorts and educational films throughout Italy. Within a year, his experiment earned an additional $1 million worth of revenue for the Company and paved the way toward its dominance in the home video market during the early 1980s.
Then, in 1987, he proposed that the Milan-based Company cease to have licensees publish Disney books, comics, and magazines, such as the weekly Topolino, but rather own and operate its own publishing division. Antonio later said, “Business jumped 1000 percent after we became our own publisher.”
After 30 years of service, Antonio Bertini retired from Walt Disney Creations S.p.A. in 1990.