Investor prefers Estonian citizenship

  • 2000-01-13
  • By Kairi Kurm
Ernesto Preatoni, an investor in the Baltics, has changed his
citizenship from Italy to Estonia. He was one of the 10 foreigners
granted citizenship for outstanding services in 1999. Why did he take
this citizenship, and what are his chances of success? Reporter Kairi
Kurm interviewed him to find out.

- Why did you take Estonian citizenship? Why did not you take Latvian?

It never came to my mind to take Latvian citizenship. I have been a
resident of Estonia for four years. People might think I am crazy
taking Estonian citizenship and renouncing Italian citizenship, but I
believe much more in the future of Estonia than the future of Italy.
Italy is not of the present. It's rather like the past. Estonia is
the future. When there is something wrong in Estonia, it is always
possible to change it, but in Italy it is absolutely impossible.

- So we can call you an Estonian now?

Yes, even though I have not yet gotten my new passport because of
some bureaucratic reasons. It is funny to imagine myself crossing the
Italian border with an Estonian passport.

- Do you speak Estonian?

I speak a little. I have not taken any exams.

- Are you interested in local culture and history?

I am interested in culture but I should say that I do not believe
there are any particular cultures. There are local cultures. When I
was young, our family spoke in a dialect Now everybody speaks
dialects in Milan. When an Italian and Icelandic marry, they speak
English (Preatoni's wife is Icelandic). It does not affect the local
culture much in my opinion.

- When looking back at your life, which are your most successful projects?

In Estonia it was when I bought and sold the share of Uhispank. The
money I made there was not big, some $10 million. But maybe the
biggest challenge we have won up to now is Kristiine shopping center.
I am very satisfied with it.

- What are your worst projects?

It was 24 years ago when I invented myself as a publisher. I do not
see any unsuccessful projects in the Baltics. There were some delays
in the developments, because the economy was not so good.

- It is popular to invest in Internet-related companies because
investors believe this sector will grow. Why haven't you been active

There are only 24 hours in a day. I cannot do everything in my life.
I agree that we are going in the direction of "disintermediation".
There is less and less need for intermediaries but, I believe the
future is there. This Internet is a good business for people who do
not have an excess of liquidity and intend to develop risky but very
profitable businesses. I am representing another category, I am
representing people with an excess of liquidity. Some people have a
lot of time but no money to do businesses related to Internet.

- What would you like to say to the readers of the Baltic Times? What
are your suggestions for the coming year?

I believe that The Baltic Times is read overall by business people,
and so I am suggesting that they come to this country more often and
do more business in this country, because this is what we need. We
need Western know how. I hope there will be many people coming to
these countries with this know how.