He doesn't talk, act, or look at all like Orson Welles, but when well-informed, cultured Italians hear the name Angelo Rizzoli, the image of the movie publisher, "Citizen Kane," inevitably comes to mind.
A short, dark, bearded man of only 33, Angelo Rizzoli is the virtual head of Italy's largest publishing firm and a man whose expanding newspaper empire worries many liberal and left-wing Italians and strikes envy into the hearts of others.
The elder of two heirs to a publishing house that currently ranks second in Europe only to the West German press dominion of Axel Springer, Rizzoli has become the "bete noire" of those Italians who believe independently owned newspapers and magazines are the safeguard of free expression.
To others, he is a boy wonder; a stocky kid who hobnobs with Italy's top politicians and businessmen and spends most of his time shutting back and forth between Milan and Rome.
Hardly a self-made man, Rizzoli entered the Italian publishing world six years ago at the head of an already diversified publishing company that bore little resemblance to the turn-of-the-century printing firm his grandfather began in Milan.
With an annual turnover of more than $306 million, the Rizzoli empire now controls more than half of Italy's periodical market with more than 20 magazines, including top Italian names like "Oggi," "Europeo," and the Italian edition of "Playboy." Also under the Rizzali umbrella are a film production and distribution network, paper and printing companies, a tourist resort, mail order house and television station.
The empire's book division published 8.5 million volumes this year, and in 1975 opened a New York branch specializing in art books. Within the next year, Rizzoli expects to have 12 retail book outlets across the United States, including one in Washington.
But Rizzoli's real impact on the Italian press scene began only two years ago, with the $70 million purchase of Milan's Corriere Della Sera group that includes. Italy's only national morning newspaper, an afternoon paper and six major periodicals, five of which are deeply in debt.
Since the Milan purchase, Rizzoli has picked up local dailies in Trieste, Trento, Bologna and Palermo, He has taken over management of Naple's major II Mattino, and reportedly has his eye on papars in Florence, Turin and Rome's major daily 11 Messaggero.
The Rizzoli buying spree, which of course has upped the company's indebtedness with Italian banks, contrasts sharply with the generally sorry state of the Italian press.
Several Italian papers, including Rome's century-old Giornale D'Italia have recently shut down their presses. Only a handful of the country's remaining 84 papers - whose total deficit in 1975 hit $120 million - are currently making a profit.
With changes of newspaper ownership a sensitive matter here, Rizzoli has run into considerable criticism. His purchase of Corriere was greeted as a sell-out to big capital when it became known that the deal had been financed with help from Eugenio Cefis, the chariman of Italy's giant Montedison chemical complex.
Rizzoli's more recent acquisitions have led to charges that, acting in the service of Italy's ruling Christian Democratrs, he is out to set up a national press monopoly.
"Cinema, press, television, books and comics are all part of a single universe, the control of which can be decisive fro the control of society itself," says Alessandro Curzi, a Communist who is a top leader of the Italian National Press Foundation, and one of Rizzoli's bitterest critics.
Rizzoli pleads innocent to such accusations. "I am not a William Randolph Hearst waging a political battle like Hearst did against Franklin Delano Roosevelt," he sadi during a recent interview at the ultra modern chrome-accented Via Veneto pent-house he has temporarily borrowed from actress Ira Furstenberg.
A long-time supporter of the small, slightly left-of-center Republican Party, Rizzoli claims he is not interested in the political control of his papers and magazines and rarely interfers with what they publish.
As evidence of his political detachment, he said, "My papers speak different languages and often give different solutions for the same problem." If he recently replaced the progresive editor of Milan's evening paper with someone more conservative, he explained, it was not, as his enemies claimed, because politician friends asked him to do so, but rather to take account of a growing conservative backlash in Milan and save readers for a paper which is already reportedly more than $6 million in the red.
The same is true, he said, for Milan's large morning daily, where a four-year progressive interlude that once led to charges the paper was Pro-Communist appears to be on the wane.
But while Rizzoli said the morning paper has increased its daily circulation by about 100,000 in the last year to more than 600,000 copies - no small achievement in a country where only slighly more than 5 million people buy papers - not everything is coming up roses in Milan.
Although exact figures are not yet available, the entire Corriera Della Sera group will probably run a deficit of almost $19 million in 1976, despite government paper subsidies and tax breaks. One might ask just why Rizzoli is so eager to expand operations in one of Italy's sickest business sectors.
The answer, he said, is his conviction that "in the long run the daily newspaper has a future, particularly if backed by a chain that can provide a series of common services.
What is needed, he insists is rationalization of costs and management said, "because they have almost always been managed on the basis of political interest rather than professional criteria." More than 50 per cent of Italy's daily press, he said is in the hands of political parties or big financial groups. Papers are rarely run by "pure" publishers with the guts to clamp down on the industry's choking sky-high labor costs.
At present, said Rizzoli, labor now accounts for about 70 per cent of production costs. Raw materials account for another 25 per cent, and if taxes, distribution costs aid financial charges are added, profit-making is almost out of the question.
To show he means business, Rizzoli started out by firing al the employees of the Mattino, which lost $5 million in 1975, and by temporarily threatening to rehire newsmen and printers alike at only half their previous salaries.
Once reproached for being too "soft" on the Communicts, in recent months Rizzoli has been accused of collusion with the conservative ruling Christian Democrats, stemming from his current need for abundant bank loans.
Rizzoli insists there is nothing sinister in his relations with the Christian Democrats who, "with 40 per cent of the vote, control 80 per cent of the country's power centers, including three-fourths of it banks.
"I don't look at the party membership cards of the people I deal with," Rizzoli said. "I just want to sell as many newspapers and magazines as possible."