Franco Ambrosio murdered; led Italgrani until 1999

by Josh Sosland
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NAPLES, ITALY — Franco Ambrosio, 77, and his wife, Giovanna Sacco, 74, were murdered at their Naples home April 15. Police reports indicated that the couple were attacked during a nighttime burglary.

Mr. Ambrosio led Italgrani S.p.A. during a period of extraordinary growth for the company. During the 1980s, he established a foothold for the company in the U.S. milling industry with the construction of the New England Milling Co. (NEMCO) in Ayer, Mass., and U.S. Durum Milling Inc., in St. Louis.

"Franco was one of the wisest men I ever met," said James M. Meyer, who has served as president of U.S. Milling since 1988. "In the early 1980s, the durum milling in the United States was centered on origin mills that were old. NEMCO ushered in a new era of destination durum mills."

NEMCO was a joint venture between Italgrani and Prince Pasta Co., which operated a pasta plant in nearby Lowell, Mass. In addition to U.S. Durum, the construction of NEMCO was followed by a wave of additional destination durum mills and/or durum mills integrated into pasta plants by other companies in Excelsior Springs, Mo.; Huron, Ohio; Tolleson, Ariz.; Minot, N.D.; Columbia, S.C.; Kenosha, Wis.; Fresno, Calif.; and Winchester, Va. Many of the durum mills operating before the 1980s either have been closed or have been converted to non-durum mills.

At its height, Italgrani was a major industrial company in Italy employing a large workforce in the southern part of the country in pasta production, grain storage, durum milling and other activities, including grain trade.

Within its grain trading operations, Italgrani served as the effective marketing arm of the Canadian Wheat Board in the Mediterranean for several years, facilitating significant exports of durum and other commodities from Canada into the region.

In the early 1990s, Mr. Ambrosio faced a series of legal difficulties. He was accused of defrauding the European Union of subsidies for phantom durum-wheat bran shipments to Algeria, and later was caught up in the so-called Clean Hands political corruption scandal in Italy.

The company was placed under the control of a bankruptcy trustee in 1999, ending Mr. Ambrosio’s involvement with the business. Since 2006, the company has been owned by the Benedini family of Milan. The Benedinis have diverse business interests that include information technology, software, insurance and chemical ink.

Three men have been arrested in connection with the Ambrosio murder.

The Ambrosios are survived by two sons, Massimo and Mauro, and three grandchildren. The funeral was to be held in San Giuseppe Vesuviano near Naples.

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