In 1961 Tanzi was at university when his father died, leaving behind a small grocery business in the village of Collecchio near Parma. Tanzi, the oldest son, dropped out of university and - with just a diploma in accountancy - took over the business to stop it being sold.
Tanzi then proceeded to develop the business into a multi-million euro enterprise. In 1990 it was floated on the stock exchange and the following year he bought the local football team, Parma, and took them to Serie A.
Tanzi also paid for the restoration of Duomo di Parma. He also collected artwork including works by Picasso, Monet and Van Gogh (during the bankruptcy of Parmalat, Tanzi hid theses amongst his friends and family but they were later seized by police as assets worth 100 million eruro to pay off his debts).
- See main article, Parmalat Scandal
In 2003 the company collapsed with billions of euros of debt amid a major financial scandal. Tanzi was seen as the figure behind this an in 2008 he was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He appealed but in December 2010 the 71 year old Tanzi was again found guilty and sentenced to 18 years in jail. He is due to appeal against this sentence meaning he will not be imprisoned during this appeal.
Tanzi was appointed Cavaliere del Lavoro in 1984 and Cavaliere di Gran Croce Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana in 1999. Both honours were withdrawn following the financial scandal.
He was also awarded an honourary degree in economics from the University of Parma.
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