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In memoriam: Luciano Berti, founder of Ali Group

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The founder and honorary Chairman of Ali Group was "a charismatic leader and a true titan of the foodservice industry", reports Michael Jones

Passing away peacefully from natural causes on January 18, 2021, Luciano Berti, founder and honorary chairman of Ali Group, was due to celebrate his 90th birthday later this month. His impact on foodservice equipment manufacturing and the wider foodservice industry, was immeasurable.

“Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know Luciano have lost a dear friend, a charismatic leader and a true titan of the foodservice industry, often described by his peers as a visionary,” Berti’s son and chairman and chief executive officer of Ali Group, Filippo Berti, said in a statement released yesterday.

Luciano Berti was the first ever ‘Titans of Industry’ interviewee for FCSI’s Foodservice Consultant magazine, with this writer fortunate to spend time with him at Ali Group’s headquarters in Milan, Italy, in 2013 (that original interview is available to read, here: Foodservice_Consultant_Luciano Berti). During our interview, his charm and quick wit was matched by an unsurpassed insight and knowledge of an industry he clearly loved and had thrown himself into since joining it in 1962.

Intellectual curiosity

Berti was the proud recipient of a Stanford University Fulbright Scholarship in 1955, where he went on to achieve his bachelor’s degree in Sociology. “My degree in Sociology was due to intellectual interest,” he said in 2013. “I still have that intellectual curiosity in people.”

Berti returned to Italy, earning his doctorate in political science at the University of Turin and spent a brief period as a professor of sociology at IRI’s post-graduate school. He then made an investment in a small Milanese automated warewashing company in 1962, and soon thereafter founded Ali Comenda — a first step toward making the Ali Group a world leader in the foodservice equipment industry.

With the initial help of his wife Giancarla, Berti built the Ali Group into the multinational foodservice force it is today. The Group today employs approximately 10,000 employees in 30 countries and includes 79 global brands, including Scotsman, Champion and Falcon. Berti was also especially proud of Aliworld magazine, which he initiated in 2012, because it focuses not only on internal projects but also on the Ali Group’s vast network of business partners — dealers, distributors, reps and, of course, consultants.

A source of pride and joy

Berti’s greatest love, says Ali Group’s statement, was for his wife, Giancarla, who passed away on November 23, 2019. They celebrated 52 years of marriage together. “More than anything, Mr. and Mrs. Berti loved having their family together to celebrate special occasions. Their six grandchildren were a particular source of pride and joy for them.”

Luciano and Giancarla Berti were very active in their many charitable and philanthropic pursuits. Berti was particularly fond of the scholarships he sponsored as he strongly believed that “education is the foundation for success”. Both Luciano and Giancarla Berti were deeply involved with organizations supporting the arts and sciences through their founding of the Fondazione Berti in Italy and the Berti Foundation in the US. A special point of pride for Luciano was the educational assistance given to children of Ali Group employees through the Berti Foundation Scholarship Program in the US, in addition to the AFS Intercultural Program offered to Ali Group employees in Italy, and the scholarships offered through the Accademia della Scala to send young Italian musicians to the Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado.

“We have lost a dear friend to many, and for those of us in the Berti family, a loving father and grandfather,” said Filippo Berti. “Many of you who personally knew my father know that beyond his deep intellectual curiosity, he always enjoyed meeting people. He genuinely cared about his employees’ well-being — as much as he cared about the business. I look forward to continuing his legacy. On behalf of my family, I would like to thank you for your kindness and sympathy during our time of loss. It gives us great comfort to know that you are thinking of us during this time.”

Michael Jones