When he was 15 he used to sell tickets to the Bologna stadium. After he grew up, he made a business of it. Now his company, Best Union, founded in 1999 and quoted on the Milan Stock Exchange, has 15,000 banking points of sale and is the leader in Italy for revenues from ticket sales of sports events, fairs, shows and amusement parks, as well as one of the main operators in the world when it comes to the design, sale and management of electronic ticketing systems, access control, services of reception and security.
But Luca Montebugnoli, 43, chairman and managing director, who, when asked, will also see to the graphic realization of the tickets, isn't ready to stop and has just acquired Charta, the fourth competitor in size, number one in Italy for theater ticketing, and second Italian network for sales points and traditional advance sales (other than those through banks).
For Best Union it is the eighth acquisition in two years. «The acquisition of Charta will enable Best Union to expand its offering to structures like La Scala in Milan and the San Carlo in Naples» Montebugnoli explains to Panorama Economy. «Moreover, if we add our 150 non-banking points of sale to Charta's 480, we become the largest advance sales ticketing network in Italy. Best Union has also just been chosen as a "Friend" network by the Ministry of the Public Administration, so that our points of sale can be used to pay fines, university tuition fees and local taxes».
Among its clients are many football and basketball teams, the main national fairgrounds and some of the most famous amusement parks in the world. In addition to managing ticketing at Disney World Orlando and Disneyland Hong Kong, as well as the Italian amusement parks Gardaland, Mirabilandia and Zoomarine, the company just won the tender for Rainbow MagicLand, and will replace Ticket One at the regional park of Puglia, Miragica-Terra di Giganti (Molfetta). Among sports events are the Champions League finals and the Swimming World Championships.
For five years, in addition, the company has been managing Telethon.
And its turnover has been growing. In 2010 consolidated revenues reached around 26 million euro, with an Ebitda of about 2 million, a positive net financial position for 600,000 and a growth of 25% over the previous year.
But for Montebugnoli the most important achievement has to do with security. «I will never forget the Milan-Juventus game during the 2002/03 season, when the fans attacked the police forces. At that time, we only handled staffing, but after that, the laws evolved. In particular, after the revolt of some Serbian fans at the Marassi Stadium in Genoa (last October, with 16 injured and 17 arrests, ed.note), the Italian Football Association asked Best Union to provide stewards for Slovenia-Italy».
His work has enabled him to meet some of the biggest stars of sports and music, and he is proudest by far of his friendship with Luciano Pavarotti, who in 2005 invested in 20% of the company. Today Nicoletta Mantovani, Big Luciano's widow, is the second shareholder in Best Union, with 12%. «With three women on our Board of Directors, out of a total of nine members, we can't be accused of discrimination» jokes Montebugnoli. But he still has a dream. «I'd really like to organize the American Super Bowl, and also the Italian Olympic Games in 2020».