Nazzareno Vassallo

Nazzareno Vassallo, Founder of Vassallo Group, has recalled how the decision to list his five children as shareholders from a very young age was a move that proved vital for the future of the group.

On Tuesday, Vassallo Group, one of Malta’s largest diversified groups, celebrated its 78th anniversary.

First founded through a partnership between the late Piju Vassallo and his nephews to clear debris from public buildings following World War Two, the company – still Vassallo Builders at the time – was incorporated as a limited liability company in 1971, with Mr [Nazzareno] Vassallo being appointed the first Managing Director.

Prior to its transformation into a limited liability company, Mr Vassallo had already been involved in the business at a very young age. In total, he spent 57 years directly involved in the company, only retiring two years ago, leaving the business in the hands of his children.

Speaking to MaltaCEOs.mt, Mr Vassallo recalled how the group has transformed significantly over the years, particularly because of his push to diversify the business and involve his children in some way or another.

Mr Vassallo said that when he first joined the company, it was only involved in construction. He then tried to buy the shares of his brothers and father, and from then on, he became a sole owner and entered into plenty of partnerships.

He didn’t want his children to go through the same challenge of having to buy shares from his family members, and thus he wanted to find a way to avoid it.

“I did so by incorporating my children as shareholders from the very start,” Mr Vassallo recalled. His youngest daughter, Charlene Vella Vassallo, was only a few months old when she became a shareholder.

“I remember a judge telling me that if I have any more children, I’d have to give them equal shares. This is indicative of the trust I have in my children. Luckily, all of them graduated, something I didn’t have the opportunity to do back in the day, and now they are involved in the business,” Mr Vassallo proudly said.

Vassallo Group Shareholders
From left: Charlene Vella Vassallo, Ruben Vassallo, Christian Vassallo, Nazzareno Vassallo, Pio Vassallo and Natalie Briffa Farrugia / Vassallo Group

After Vassallo Builders was incorporated, he wanted to diversify the business so that each one of his five children would have a different area to focus on.

As a result, from the start of the 1980s, Vassallo Group formed different partnerships in a number of areas, ranging from tourism to concrete production. In the 1990s, the group also made the step into elderly care, opening Casa Arkati in 1992.

The group has since also delved into real estate, solar energy, and the education sector.

Today, Natalie Briffa Farrugia – the eldest of the siblings – is Vassallo Group Chairperson, while Pio Vassallo is CEO. Christian Vassallo is Strategy Director and also CEO of Campus Hub, Ruben Vassallo is CEO of Vassallo Group Realty Limited, while Dr [Charlene Vella] Vassallo is Director of Business Development at CareMalta Group.

“Therefore, I think my decision paid off. My children were born in business, and that helped massively in my opinion,” Mr Vassallo said.

Looking back on Vassallo Group’s achievements over the years, Mr Vassallo said that the project he is most proud of is that of the Mellieħa Holiday Complex, better known as the Danish Village. Vassallo Group was entrusted with the project, composed of a number of one-storey bungalows inspired by the traditional farmhouse, in the late 1970s.

“It was a very challenging project to complete and the largest at the time. To this day, we are still satisfied with it, and it is considered one of the most beautiful landmarks in the area,” he added.

He also pointed towards Casa Arkati as another notable milestone being the group’s first elderly care home. “My greatest satisfaction is not the dividend, but the fact that we changed the lives of people who stayed at our care homes,” Mr Vassallo said.

“There were plenty of moments that I can say were important milestones. But it is important to say that in life, you can’t do anything on your own, and you need the support of others,” he continued.

However, running such a large business in Malta does come with its fair share of challenges.

Mr Vassallo said that at one point, Vassallo Group had close to 2,000 employees across its different sectors. He remarked that he would always be worried that there would be an accident at a construction site or something similar to that. Additionally, keeping a workforce busy for a full year is a challenge in itself.

Mr Vassallo added that the COVID-19 pandemic also presented a number of difficulties. Yet he remarked that since the group was already highly diversified, the damage caused by the pandemic was not as bad as it could have been.

“I believe that diversification is key in the business world,” he reaffirmed.

Featured Image:

Vassallo Group Founder Nazzareno Vassallo / Vassallo Group

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