Ricky Cavallero was CEO of the Spanish-language publisher Random House Mondadori for eight years. In 1995 he joined Mondadori as Director of Marketing Books; two years later he was appointed General Manager of the Spanish subsidiary and launched the Alexandros trilogy by Valerio Massimo Manfredi which became a huge best-seller.
In 1999 he inaugurated the Grijalbo Mondadori bookshop in Havana. In 2000 he returned to Italy as director of Books Edizioni Mondadori. The following year, the Random House Mondadori joint venture was established and Cavallero assumed the position of Chief Executive Officer initially based in New York and then, from 2004, in Barcelona.
In 2010 he was appointed General Manager of Libri Trade Mondadori and Chief Executive Officer of Einaudi, under which the Piemme, Sperling & Kupfer and Frassinelli houses operated. In 2016 he launched a new venture, founding his own house, called SEM Società Editrice Milanese. He sold it in the Spring of 2023.
We met in Milan to talk about his take on book publishing. Topics covered include Libya, the Hoepli bookstore in Milan, Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, nipples, different ways of looking at Latin America, atlases, nationalism, the fun of hitting the big one, Sonny Mehta, buying Fifty Shades of Grey, the impact of Covid, travel and understanding the world, meeting people, diversity, Africa, new writers, exiles and revolutions, bars, interesting people, getting ‘out there;’ listening, and asking questions, participating in life, partying, SEM, weekly dinners being a better investment than advertising, jazz music, Verso Bar and Bookshop in Milan, jamming with Ken Follett, offering stages for new voices, and giving birth.