Giuseppe (a.k.a Joey) Saputo, businessman, sports executive, philanthropist (born 25 September 1964 in Montreal, QC). Joey Saputo is the son of Canadian billionaire Lino Saputo, the founder of Montreal-based Saputo Inc., one of the most prominent dairy companies in the world (see also Diary Industry; Cheese and Cheese Making). Joey Saputo is the founding president and chairman of CF Montréal (formerly Montreal Impact), a professional soccer club that plays in Major League Soccer (MLS). Saputo was at the head for the development and construction of Stade Saputo, a soccer-specific stadium, home of CF Montréal. Joey Saputo is also the chairman for the soccer club Bologna F.C. 1909 that plays in the top Italian soccer league Serie A.
Early Life and Saputo Inc.
Joey Saputo was born in Montreal, Quebec. Saputo grew up on the West Island and like most children in the area and of his age, he played hockey. Saputo never played soccer growing up because it was not as popular in Montreal as it is today. He has two siblings Nadia and Lino Jr.
Saputo’s father Lino Saputo, was the moving force in founding the cheese-making business, Saputo Inc., in 1954. (See also Diary Industry; Cheese and Cheese Making). In 2003, Lino Saputo stepped aside and was replaced by Lino Jr. as the new CEO of the company. Lino Sr. remained as chairman until his retirement in 2017, making Lino Jr. the company’s CEO and chairman. In a 2011 article by The Montrealer, Joey Saputo is quoted as saying “My brother and I are competitive but at the same time supportive and we complement each other. I’m really proud of him. He runs the cheese business and has taken it from being a 1,000-person company that our dad built from scratch up to 10,000 people today.”
Joey Saputo began working for Saputo Inc. in 1985, and in 1990 was named the president and chief operating officer of the company’s Dairy Products Division of the United States. After moving around in the company, Saputo was named senior vice president of Commercial and Business Development in January 2004. Saputo has played key roles at Jolina Capital, an asset management company that is involved with managing the Saputo family company assets.
Joey Saputo left Saputo Inc. in 2007 to spend more time on his private holding company, Free2Be Holdings Inc. and on his Montreal soccer team. “I have a holding company that enables me to own several companies and make a living,” said Saputo in a 2011 interview with The Montrealer. “I do this for free – but I sure get a lot of satisfaction from it.”
Joey Saputo is the president of Arbec, a Quebec lumber and wood panel producer. He is also chairman of the board for Remabec, Quebec’s largest forestry company, 50 per cent of which is owned by Arbec. He is also on the board of directors of Groupe Petra, a private management firm involved in real estate, and he is on the board of directors of the publicly traded company TFI International.
CF Montréal (Montréal Impact)
Saputo has been the president (until 2019) and chairman of CF Montréal since founding the club in 1993. The club would play in a variety of lower-tier, US-based leagues before moving up to Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2012 as an expansion team. CF Montréal was the third Canadian soccer club to join the league.
Saputo was the lead for the construction of Saputo Stadium which was inaugurated in 2008 and cost a total of $17 million. The stadium is located at Olympic Park in Montreal; the venue’s seating capacity was increased from 13,034 to 20,801 in 2012. (See also Montreal Olympic Stadium.) The Quebec government supplied an added $23 million for the stadium expansion. The following year, the club opened a new training field, given a FIFA 2 Star designation, which is the highest grade for artificial soccer fields.
CF Montréal made its debut at Stade Saputo on 16 June 2012 in their inaugural season, defeating the Seattle Sounders FC in a historic 4-1 match. The club would win its first major trophy as an MLS expansion team by winning the 2013 Canadian Championship. At the time, this was the club’s second Voyageurs Cup win during Canadian Championship tournament play. CF Montréal would go on to win the Voyageurs Cup again in 2014, 2019 and in 2021. (They had been awarded the trophy from 2002 to 2007, under a different format, when it went to the team with the best record against Canadian clubs in the USL First Division.)
During the 2015 season, CF Montréal became the first Canadian club, and only the second MLS club, to reach the finals of the CONCACAF Champions League. They ended up finishing in second place after losses to Mexico’s Club América.
“My dad has always been supportive but had the condition that whatever we started we had to finish, and it had to give us satisfaction,” said Saputo in a 2011 interview with The Montrealer. “I could tell that when I told him that I wanted to build the soccer club that it wasn’t his first choice for me; but since then, I’m pretty sure he’s okay with it. He doesn’t hand out compliments too readily, but I find out from people in the stands at games that it makes him feel good to see so many fans and families out having a good time in Saputo Stadium.”
Bologna F.C. 1909
On 15 October 2014, Joey Saputo and Joe Tacopina, lawyer, businessman and former A.S. Roma vice president, bought the professional soccer club Bologna F.C. 1909 in a consortium through the majority shareholder Saputo.
On 17 November 2014, Joey Saputo was selected as the next chairman for Bologna F.C. replacing Joe Tacopina who remained as chairman until the annual general meeting on 22 December 2014.
When Saputo bought Bologna F.C., the team was in the Italian second division Serie B; in its first regular season under Saputo, the club finished tied for third place. The team advanced to win the promotion playoffs and moved back up to Serie A the next season. Since being under Saputo, Bologna F.C. avoided relegation down to Serie B and the team had its best season finish (10th place) in 2018–19.
Personal Life and Philanthropy
Saputo’s wife is Carmie Frassetti Saputo. Together they have four children, all of whom are boys.
Joey Saputo has been heavily involved in the Montreal and Quebec communities. Saputo is a member of the Montreal Impact Foundation. This charity was launched on 26 August 2013 to supply sports facilities for communities in underprivileged areas, and to promote the practice of physical activity and social inclusion. Carmie Saputo serves as president of the board of directors for the Foundation. “Our goal is to have a competitive team on the field, but our commitment off the field is just as important,” said Joey Saputo in a press release launching the foundation.
In addition to the Montreal Impact Foundation, Saputo serves on the board of directors of PROCURE, a charitable organization that aims to help prevent and cure prostate cancer. Saputo has also been a member of the Italian-Canadian Community Foundation of Quebec, and served as its president from 2014 to 2017. (See also Italian Canadians.)