OBITUARY: Emilio Riva

On April 29, the founder of Italian steelmaker Riva Group, Emilio Riva, died at the age of 87.

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Riva was a divisive figure, both loved for his role in the history of Italian steelmaking and hated for his involvement in the environmental problems at the company’s Taranto plant.

Born in June 1926 in Milan, Emilio Riva set up Riva & C in 1954 with his brother Adriano, selling scrap to local steel mills in Brescia.

Three years later, Riva’s first steel plant was built in Caronno Pertusella near Varese, equipped with an electric arc furnace.

In 1964, Riva was the first company in the world to install a continuous casting machine when one was incorporated into the Varese plant.

The group was able to build on the success of the Varese plant and now employs about 25,000 people at 38 locations across the world, with a turnover of about €10 billion ($14 billion), according to a group spokesman.

In 1995, Riva acquired Ilva, whose unit at Taranto in southern Italy is Europe’s largest steel plant.

Of the €4.5 billion ($6.2 billion) invested in the Ilva Taranto plant from 1995 to 2001, more than €1.2 billion ($1.7 billion) was spent on environmental projects, the group says.

However, concerns about possible pollution and breaches of environmental law at the steelworks started to be heard in July 2012, and ultimately led to the arrests of several Ilva executives, including Emilio Riva.

In May 2013, the Riva family’s controlling stake in Ilva was seized by the Italian government.

Both Emilio Riva and his son Nicola were among those placed under house arrest in July 2013 on allegations of corrupt payments being made to government officials visiting the plant.

Another son, Fabio Riva, gave himself up to UK police in January 2013.

The house arrest orders were lifted by Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation only last month, following an appeal.

According to a statement from the Riva Group, the founder disputed his and the group’s wrongdoing until the end.

“Emilio Riva passed away without being able to defend himself against unfounded accusations that he disputed,” the statement read, “but he told the people closest to him that he was certain that justice would return full integrity to the family and the group.”

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