The new De Agostini Endowed Chair in Corporate Strategy at Bocconi University kicks off. The chair, born from the collaboration between De Agostini and Bocconi University, supported by the De Agostini Group, one of the largest Italian family-owned groups, of which Marco Drago (Bocconi Alumnus of the year 2001) is President Emeritus, was inaugurated today with a lectio attended by Marco Drago, Paolo Basilico (Samhita Investments, ex Kairos), Vittorio Colao (General Atlantic), Elena Goitini (BNL BNP Paribas) and Paolo Scaroni (Rothschild) as well as Andrea Sironi and Francesco Billari, respectively president and rector of Bocconi.
The chair entrusted to Sonja Opper, full professor in Global Strategy and Institutions, at Bocconi since 2020, was inaugurated with the lectio Where foreign companies thrive: the long shadow of history, in which Opper, starting from his studies on emerging markets has focused on some often overlooked factors behind the success of businesses abroad.
History, Opper argues, has shaped local culture. Entrepreneurial talent is not the product of top-down norms. Rather, it is a set of shared beliefs, norms and expected behaviours, transmitted and internalized over several generations, deriving from a long tradition of openness which can even have its roots several centuries ago. Indeed, formal institutional reforms and pro-entrepreneurship policies are not likely to be sufficient, in the absence of supporting cultural norms and local social beliefs, to sustain a dynamic economy. “If I wanted to do business in a developing country, I would look for places where there has been a long and continuous history of contact with foreigners,” says Sonja Opper. Furthermore, I would need the right network to identify and realize local business opportunities».
«Continued tension towards innovation and international growth are the two pillars that unite Bocconi and De Agostini and which led us to establish this chair thanks to a generous donation from the Drago families – comments Francesco Billari, rector of Bocconi -. Faced with the increasingly complex challenges of research and higher education, universities, companies and institutions must increasingly work together to understand the new development trajectories and train future generations who will be called upon to improve our society”.
De Agostini has chosen to support the De Agostini Endowed Chair in Corporate Strategy because the topics covered by the research represent the synthesis of the path taken by the De Agostini Group under the guidance of Marco Drago – 25 years of Presidency and over 50 years in the company – who able to manage the Group, diversify its activities and internationalize the business areas, starting from the publishing company in Novara, up to a Group known worldwide. The organizational and governance model of the De Agostini Group is today recognized as an example of excellence in Corporate Strategy, hence the idea of establishing the chair and naming a classroom inside the new Bocconi campus dedicated to Marco Drago, a model of inspiration and guide for all those who will be trained in the courses offered by the business school.
«It is a source of great pride for me to be able to inaugurate the new chair in Corporate Strategy within my Alma Mater which has seen me as a student, alumnus and today donor of a Chair which proposes research and study activities and which will disseminate university students on topics dear to our Group and which have guided its growth and development over the years – said Marco Drago, Chairman Emeritus of De Agostini SpA -. In over 120 years of history, our company has grown to become a global and diversified industrial and financial holding company, with transparent governance and a shared strategy that have allowed us to embark on a strong renewal process, always remaining anchored to the fundamental principles of an enlightened family business. I would like to thank Sonja Opper who has assumed the title of this Chair which for us represents the synthesis of the path undertaken by our Group, my friend Andrea Sironi and Francesco Billari with whom we will collaborate to support the younger generations and their education, as well as Gianmario Verona with whom we began to discuss these issues».
The research areas of the chair
The activity of the DeAgostini Chair will focus on four main interconnected themes. The first of these issues concerns institutional differences in different market contexts and how these differences influence the quality of investment decisions and local strategies. Second theme illustrates the strategies that can only be valid when the team develops them and implements them: this simple intuition has long made leadership networks a central theme in the search for competitive advantage. But what is meant by a good network? What are the factors that favor the effective implementation of corporate strategies, minimizing risks? Network research has so far mainly focused on corporate networks in specific sectors of the West. Are these results replicable in different sectors? Do they also apply to authoritarian countries and those with weak institutions? What are the common points between successful networks in different market contexts? And what are the characteristics that distinguish them? Reliable answers for diversification and internationalization strategies can only be obtained with cumulative network research conducted in different market domains, defined by industry or national context.
The third theme concerns the factors that determine corporate strategies in non-democratic environments and the reciprocal relationship between politics and the companies that operate in them. This research field studies the interaction between corporate strategy, informal social networks and political institutions as factors of long-term survival and corporate sustainability.
Finally, the fourth point relates to the importance of local cultures in fostering development. Local culture is a critical predictor of business success and should heavily influence not only investment decisions but also the way businesses are run.