Italian Publishers Association: Ricardo Levi’s Resignation From the ‘Italy 2024’ Helm

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Ricardo Franco Levi has resigned as Italy’s commissioner to the 2024 Frankfurt guest of honor program. He remains president of the Federation of European Publishers.

Ricardo Franco Levi leads a statistical update on the state of the Italian publishing industry at the 40th annual Scuola per Librai Umberto e Elisabetta Mauri—the Mauri “school of booksellers”—on January 27, 2023,  in the Cini Foundation’s Salone degli Arazzi on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Levi Tenders His Resignation as Commissioner
A difficult turn of events in Milan, as the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) confirms to Publishing Perspectives that following Ricardo Franco Levi’s resignation as Italy’s commissioner to the 2024 Frankfurt guest of honor program, the AIE “presidential committee” has met to start “the procedures for identifying the new president who will be elected at the next elective assembly scheduled for September.”

Ricardo Franco Levi has not resigned from AIE. The committee’s work in finding a successor has begun because Levi’s third term (the final term allowed by AIE’s regulations) comes to its planned conclusion in late June. It was earlier thought that this third term would be extended to include the Guest of Honor Italy work for Frankfurt, but without Levi’s role as “extraordinary commissioner” for the state, this no longer carries the same logic.

Levi remains president of the Federation of European Publishers (FEP). The federation–in a statement provided to Publishing Perspectives–has affirmed staunch support for Levi and its intention to retain his presidency there. The federation statement reads:

“In November 2022, the FEP‘s general assembly unanimously elected Ricardo Franco Levi as president for a mandate of two years. During the last days, the FEP board was informed by its president of his decision to resign from his position of commissioner for the participation of Italy as guest of honor at Frankfurt Book Fair in 2024.

“FEP confirms its wholehearted support to Ricardo Franco Levi for the full remaining period of his term as president. FEP appreciates his expertise both in publishing and European affairs, which will both be very valuable in the coming months, especially with respect to the upcoming elections for the European Parliament and the new commission.

“At the next general assembly, on June 15 in Paris, the FEP members very much look forward to expressing their support to their president for his continual commitment and dedicated work on behalf of European publishers.”

Two Developments

Ricardo Franco Levi at the 40th annual Scuola per Librai Umberto e Elisabetta Mauri seated with his panel in Venice. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

What has led Levi to proffer his resignation in Italy after years of service, in fact, is the second embarrassment in a month’s time.

Having been named a “special commissioner” by Rome for the Guest of Honor Italy program coming in 2024 at Frankfurter Buchmesse, Levi found himself the subject of questions on Friday (May 26), when the daily news medium Liber pointed out that Levi’s son Alberto works for the Brussels-based public relations and marketing firm IFC Next, which has been chosen to handle the guest of honor program.

Levi has quickly maintained that his son’s work at IFC Next is not connected with the AIE’s account and that nothing inappropriate occurred in the selection of IFC Next for the guest of honor contract. IFC won the tender because it had the best and least expensive bid, Levi has insisted in answer to media questions about possible nepotism in IFC Next’s selection. He has maintained that his son was not assigned to the Italian guest of honor project.

Nevertheless, in light of a potential perception of nepotism in the selection of the agency to receive the guest of honor contract, Levi has sent a letter of resignation to the country’s minister of culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, in order to bow out as the government’s special commissioner for the leadership of the Frankfurt project. News reports indicate that Sangiuliano has said he doesn’t have the authority to accept the resignation, but that the government soon will move to put another commissioner into place.

Sangiuliano also has thanked Levi for his work to date on the project, and it should be pointed out that Levi has been seen by many in Italian publishing as a strong, even tireless friend of books and publishing, particularly with deft political finesse and highly useful contacts, some of which may have changed with the arrival of the new Giorgia Meloni government.

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, Levi, formerly part of the Romano Prodi government, has leveraged his political dexterity frequently to aid Italian publishers and sister creative industries in finding subsidies and support, especially during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, when he worked closely with then-culture minister Dario Franceschini under whose tenure Levi had been made the special commissioner to the project.

The earlier event this month (and not seen as the immediate trigger for this week’s resignation) had to do with the Italian theoretical physicist and popular author Carlo Rovelli, who apparently had been invited by Levi to be a speaker during the 2024 Guest of Honor Italy program at Frankfurt. After Rovelli reportedly made comments critical of the Italian defense minister, the invitation to speak was withdrawn by Levi, who reportedly felt that political controversy around Rovelli’s comments would be a problem. Rovelli published Levi’s email on social media, and Levi then reversed himself and reinstated the invitation for Rovelli to speak.

Guest of Honor Programming

To date, no details of the Italian program for 2024 at Frankfurter Buchmesse have been officially announced, and the events of this month aren’t expected to impact Italy’s guest of honor program at Frankfurt, as Frankfurt spokesman Torsten Casimir has confirmed. In the guest of honor framework, Casimir points out, each national leadership devises its own programming.

This year’s guest of honor at Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 20) is Slovenia, and details of its program will be forthcoming.

Guest of Honor Slovenia has created a compelling video preview of its year in the spotlight, based on its theme, “Honeycomb of Words.” The Slovenian program is co-financed by the Republic of Slovenia and the European Union under the auspices of the European Regional Development Fund.

The Slovenian Book Agency promotes its market’s literature with professional program for publishes and translation funding.

More from Publishing Perspectives on Italy and its book publishing industry is here. More on the Federation of European Publishers is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.