Leonardo Del Vecchio, the chairman of eyeglass retailer EssilorLuxottica (ESLOF) and one of Italy’s wealthiest business figures, passed away at the age of 87.
The company, in a statement, said, “EssilorLuxottica sadly announces today that its chairman has passed away,” adding that the board would meet to “determine the next steps.”
Del Vecchio grew up from a childhood in an orphanage to amass a fortune of tens of billions of euros in one of the most famous rags-to-riches stories in Italy’s post-war economic recovery.
“Leonardo Del Vecchio was a great Italian. His story, from orphanage to leadership of a business empire, seems like a story from another time. But it is an example for today and tomorrow. RIP,” European Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said on Twitter.
The Italian businessman founded Luxottica in 1961 and built up a company that owned the Ray-Ban brand and combined forces with France’s Essilor in a major merger in 2018.
He remained executive chairman of EssilorLuxottica until December 2020, when he handed the day-to-day leadership of the company to Chief Executive Francesco Milleri. He had supported Milleri as head of the Franco-Italian eyewear giant when the merged group was created.
Del Vecchio’s influence extended beyond his own business and at the end of 2021, he became Italy’s second richest man behind Giovanni Ferrero of the Nutella-making group, as per Forbes.
His Delfin holding company is the largest shareholder in Italian financial services group Mediobanca and has a stake of just under 10% in Italy’s largest insurer Generali. It also owns about 7% of real estate company Covivio, which is listed in both Paris and Milan stock exchanges.
Talking about Del Vecchio, Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala said, “With the passing of Del Vecchio, Milan loses one of the most emblematic figures of its recent history.”
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