December 1, 2023

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Obituary: Del Vecchio rose from poverty to billions by adding style to spectacles

3 min read

The Luxottica title is mirrored in a pair of sun shades in this photo illustration taken in Rome February 4, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

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June 27 – Businessman Leonardo del Vecchio, who has died aged 87, made the eyeglasses company that owns models such as Ray-Ban and employed his billions to become just one of the most influential figures in Italian finance.

Del Vecchio rose from a childhood in an orphanage to amass a fortune of tens of billions of euros in a single of the most popular rags-to-riches stories in Italy’s article-war financial recovery.

At the close of 2021, he was Italy’s second richest man, behind only Giovanni Ferrero of the Nutella-making group, according to Forbes.

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As is typical in Italy, Del Vecchio, the chairman of spectacles maker EssilorLuxottica (ESLX.PA), did not retire quietly and, if anything at all, stepped up his enterprise things to do when he was in his 80s.

In 2018, he sealed a key merger offer to combine the Luxottica corporation that he experienced founded in 1961 with France’s Essilor.

In addition, his Delfin holding company is the largest shareholder in Italian fiscal companies team Mediobanca (MDBI.MI) and also has a sizeable stake in insurer Generali (GASI.MI), placing him at the heart of the country’s boardroom intrigues.

Del Vecchio was born into poverty. His father, who bought fruit and veggies, died when he was young, and his mom handed him in excess of to a Milanese orphanage when he was seven due to the fact she could not manage to carry him up.

He learnt metalwork in a resource shop just before location up a organization giving components for eyeglasses in Agordo, a village in the Dolomite foothills in north-east Italy in which land was provided to new firms.

Style AND Offers

Just after a tricky start out when it virtually went bust, the organization commenced making its own glasses a decade afterwards and expanded quickly in the 1980s when Del Vecchio noticed the worth of earning spectacles as a trend accessory fairly than a requirement.

He struck licensing discounts with Giorgio Armani in 1988 and went on to perform with other luxury brands this sort of as Bulgari, Chanel, Prada and Valentino.

Acquisitions ended up also element of the Del Vecchio method.

In 1999, the enterprise purchased the popular Ray-Ban brand and went on to acquire California’s Oakley as nicely as retail chains in North The us and Australia.

Hands-ON Manager

Like lots of ageing Italian entrepreneurs, critics say Del Vecchio struggled to detach himself from his generation, failing to cede regulate and designate an heir.

He has six little ones from a few interactions and remarried his next spouse in 2010.

For a 10 years he loosened his grip on his enterprise, handing above the reins to Andrea Guerra, whilst remaining Luxottica’s chairman.

But disagreements with Guerra led to his
unexpected exit in the summer months of 2014, and Del Vecchio returned to be the driving force at Luxottica’s Milan headquarters.

He became progressively associated with even trivial issues, these types of as telling personnel how to pack boxes for an place of work transfer, previous workers say.

Del Vecchio was also caught up in a series of boardroom battles and the EssilorLuxottica deal was adopted by a very long wrestle around how to divide major work in between the Italian and French camps.

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Reporting by Silvia Aloisi and Claudia Cristoferi
Crafting by Keith Weir enhancing by Barbara Lewis

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