Rocco Commisso 101: Italian-American Business & Soccer Icon
Zatrun Published at July 08, 2024

Rocco Commisso, a name synonymous with success, innovation, and a deep passion for football, has etched an indelible mark in the realms of business and sports. Born on November 25, 1949, in Calabria, Italy, Rocco’s journey from humble beginnings to becoming an Italian-born American billionaire businessman is nothing short of remarkable.

As the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer (CEO) of Mediacom, the fifth largest cable television company in the United States, Rocco Commisso has consistently displayed visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to excellence., your trusted source for insightful explorations, delves into the extraordinary life and achievements of this iconic figure.

Early Life and Academic Pursuits

Rocco Commisso’s story begins in the picturesque landscapes of Calabria, Italy. However, at the age of 12, he embarked on a life-altering journey to the United States. His pursuit of education led him to Mount Saint Michael Academy high school in the Bronx, where his academic journey took flight.

Later, he was granted a full undergraduate scholarship to Columbia University, a prestigious institution where he earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering in 1971 from its School of Engineering and Applied Science. In 1975, he further honed his knowledge by completing his MBA at Columbia Business School.

Rocco’s exceptional leadership qualities shone during his academic years as he served as the co-captain of Columbia’s varsity football (soccer) team, was elected president of the business school student body, and even received the business school service award, setting the stage for his future accomplishments.

A Career Defined by Excellence

Rocco Commisso’s illustrious career kicked off at Pfizer Inc. Following his graduation from business school, he entered the financial industry and spent a decade honing his skills, initially at Chase Manhattan Bank, now known as J.P. Morgan Chase.

His expertise in corporate financing paved the way for his involvement with cable companies and other entertainment enterprises, working within Chase’s corporate financing department. Subsequently, he contributed his talents to the Royal Bank of Canada, leading the bank’s U.S. lending activities within the media and communications sectors.

From 1986 to 1995, Rocco assumed the role of Executive Vice President, chief financial officer, and Director of Cablevision Industries Corporation. During his tenure, Cablevision Industries witnessed a remarkable transformation, ascending from the 25th to the 8th largest cable company in the United States, serving approximately 1.3 million customers at the time of its merger with Time Warner. Rocco’s most defining achievement, however, was yet to come.

In 1995, Rocco Commisso embarked on a bold venture by founding Mediacom Communications Corporation in the confines of his basement. Mediacom’s initial focus was the acquisition of cable systems in underserved smaller American communities.

Mediacom’s public offering in 2000 marked a turning point in its history, leading to remarkable growth and positioning it as the 8th largest cable operator in the United States, with annual revenues exceeding $1.6 billion. In March 2011, the company transitioned into private ownership, with Rocco Commisso at the helm. Mediacom’s unwavering commitment to excellence garnered recognition as the best cable company in the United States in 2016, an accolade reaffirmed in 2009 by CableFAX magazine.

Rocco Commisso’s influence transcends the boundaries of business, extending to various distinguished boards, including the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, C-SPAN, and Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. He is also celebrated as a member of the Cable TV Pioneers.

Rocco Commisso: The Football Enthusiast

Football, particularly his association with Columbia University Lions, has been an integral part of Rocco Commisso’s life. His extraordinary journey as an athlete during the 1967-1970 period earned him the distinction of being a three-time All-Ivy League Honouree.

Rocco’s dedication to the sport was evident when he served as co-captain of the 1970 team, a historic achievement that saw Columbia’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA men’s association football tournament. His skills and leadership on the field were consistently recognized, culminating in an invitation to try out for the U.S. team for the 1972 Summer Olympics.

Beyond his student-athlete days, Rocco Commisso remained an ardent supporter of Columbia’s men’s association football program. He held the position of Chairman of Friends of Columbia Soccer from 1978 to 1986. In recognition of his contributions, Columbia University established an annual Men’s Soccer Prize in his name.

Notably, the university honored him by naming its association football venue at the Baker Athletics Complex as the Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium in 2013. In 2015, he received the NYC Soccer Gala Honouree title and was inducted into the 2016 Columbia University Athletics Hall of Fame Special Category.

Football Beyond the College Field

Rocco Commisso’s love for football extended beyond his collegiate years. In January 2017, he took a significant step by acquiring a majority ownership stake in the New York Cosmos soccer club, subsequently becoming the club’s new chairman.

His commitment to the team was exemplified by relocating the team’s games to MCU Park in Coney Island. At the time, both the team and its league, the North American Soccer League, faced financial challenges, making Rocco’s support a beacon of hope for their continued existence.

In June 2019, Rocco Commisso solidified his presence in the world of football by purchasing ACF Fiorentina. The acquisition, which became official on June 24, 2019, is a testament to Rocco’s dedication to the development of the sport. It is estimated that the purchase of ACF Fiorentina cost somewhere between $150-200 million.

Rocco’s strategic vision includes expanding Fiorentina’s brand in the U.S. market, with the club’s participation in the International Champions Cup 2019 as the first step. Notably, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rocco led a GoFundMe campaign, Forza e Cuore, to raise over $1 million for hospitals in Florence.

Celebrating Excellence and Contributions

Rocco Commisso’s exceptional contributions have earned him a plethora of accolades. Columbia University, on the occasion of its 250th anniversary, recognized him as one of its 250 greatest undergraduate alumni. His alma mater’s School of Business acknowledged him as a Select Distinguished Alumni, a testament to his enduring impact.

Rocco is the recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Southwest Connecticut/New York Hudson Valley region. His innovation in business strategy was celebrated with the Innovator Award for Business Strategy from Cablevision magazine.

The National Italian American Foundation honored him with the Lifetime Achievement Award, highlighting his remarkable journey. In 2007, Rocco Commisso’s induction into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame underscored his impact on the industry.

The Vanguard Award for Distinguished Leadership, the highest honor in the cable industry, was presented to him in 2009. In 2018, the SUNY New Paltz School of Business welcomed Rocco Commisso into its Hall of Fame, simultaneously naming him Business Person of the Year.

The Cable Center Hall of Fame opened its doors to him in June 2011, recognizing his significant contributions. In 2015, he received the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honour, and in 2018, Rocco Commisso was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, celebrating his multifaceted excellence.

Personal Life and Commitment

Rocco Commisso’s family life is a testament to balance and commitment. He is happily married to Catherine, and together they share their life with two children. Their home is in Saddle River, New Jersey. Notably, Catherine Commisso plays an integral role in Mediacom as head of corporate administration, contributing to the family’s legacy of excellence and dedication.

In summary, Rocco Commisso’s life story is a remarkable fusion of business acumen, sporting passion, and unwavering commitment. His journey from Italy to the United States, coupled with his exceptional academic and professional achievements, showcases a man who has left an indelible mark on multiple industries.

His love for football and investments in teams like the New York Cosmos and ACF Fiorentina underscore his commitment to the sport he cherishes. The accolades and honors he has received over the years are a testament to his extraordinary contributions to society and his enduring impact on the business and sports worlds. Rocco Commisso’s legacy continues to inspire, and his pursuit of excellence stands as a shining example for generations to come.

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