Kent Bakke Steps Down as La Marzocco International CEO

Kent Bakke has been the face of La Marzocco USA for almost 40 years, and announced that he will step down as CEO. Guido Bernardinelli, who has been managing director of La Marzocco SRL in Italy for the last eight years, is the new CEO of the internationally renowned espresso machine manufacturer.

BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE

Photos courtesy of La Marzocco

Last month, La Marzocco International announced the appointment of its new CEO, Guido Bernardinelli, who has been with the company since 2002 and has served as the managing director of La Marzocco SRL since 2010.

While the move connotes new leadership at La Marzocco, it also marks the end of the CEO tenure for Kent Bakke, a coffee industry legend who has been the face of La Marzocco’s U.S. operations since 1978. Kent has championed espresso machine innovation for nearly 40 years with La Marzocco, and he will remain involved with the company as a board member and advisor.

Kent has been with La Marzocco for almost 40 years. He traveled to Florence, Italy, in 1978 and began selling La Marzocco espresso machines to cafés in the United States. Before La Marzocco pioneered the horizontal boiler, espresso machines were designed like the one above, with portafilters surrounding the body that houses the boiler.

Kent began servicing and repairing espresso machines in Seattle in the late 1970s; in 1978, a friend suggested they import and sell machines, leading Kent and the group to travel to Florence, Italy, in 1978. There they connected with La Marzocco and CMA, and Kent returned from the trip with plans to bring both brands to the Northwest.

“It has been a beautiful and memorable 39 years since I first met La Marzocco and the Bambi family,” Kent says now. “I was blessed to have met Giuseppe and Bruno, the Bambi brothers who founded La Marzocco, and Giuseppe’s son Piero, who continues to be a dear friend and mentor. That first visit opened up a new world for me—a world of new tastes, new culture, new friends, challenges, heartbreaks, success, failure, and many lessons learned.”

In the ensuing years as CEO of La Marzocco, Kent made regular trips to the La Marzocco factory in Italy, overseeing the success of the company as it expanded its global presence; La Marzocco now has offices in nine markets worldwide. Along the way, he continued to sell, install, and repair the machines, as well as teach people about espresso.

Kent with Piero Bambi, son of founder Giuseppe Bambi, with the La Marzocco GS (which stands for gruppo saturo), the first espresso machine with two independent boilers so that the groupheads are constantly saturated.

“The many friends and partners … during these years are what I treasure,” says Kent. “The wonderful world of coffee has enriched my life, and I am grateful for the all the friends and experiences from around the world that I have shared through this amazing beverage we call ‘coffee.’ I am humbled by the passion and culture that each barista, each café, each country has embraced.”

Now with the transition, Guido takes over as CEO; he has played a vital role in the growth of La Marzocco’s heritage and culture through product development and innovation, opening branch offices worldwide and addressing the next generation of La Marzocco employees and partners. “This new appointment recognizes Guido’s continued commitment in leadership to La Marzocco,” says Kent. “I am confident in his experience, vision, and passion for growing the company. I believe that he will continue to lead and advance our brand, culture, and international team.”

Guido Bernardinelli at a La Marzocco 90th anniversary party. Guido was in charge of the initiative, which kicked off parties and celebrations of the historic brand across the globe.

Most recently, Guido directed the company’s 90th anniversary celebration and campaign. For Guido, continuing the legacy of La Marzocco—and of Kent Bakke—is an honor. “My most respectful and honored feelings go to the board and longtime friend and mentor, Kent Bakke, for my evolved position at La Marzocco,” Guido says. “I gratefully take on this new responsibility. I am confident that my 20-year expertise and global market understanding shall perpetuate our predecessor’s achievements and foreknowledge of the coffee community.”

As he passes the baton, Kent is grateful for the lifelong friendships forged over his long career with La Marzocco. “I have enjoyed working with my best friends and thank every one of them for their contribution,” says Kent. “It was not a solo journey, and coffee is always more enjoyable when shared with another person.”

About Chris Ryan 236 Articles
Chris Ryan (he/him) is Barista Magazine's online copy editor and a freelance writer and editor with a background in the specialty coffee industry. He has been content director of Sustainable Harvest and the editor of Fresh Cup Magazine.