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Italian eyewear magnate Leonardo Del Vecchio dies at 87

MILAN, June 27 (Reuters) – Italian Leonardo Del Vecchio, who rose from childhood poverty to build the eyewear empire that owns brands such as Ray-Ban and Oakley, has died at the age of 87, his company announced on Monday.

Del Vecchio added a touch of Italian flair to eyewear and became one of Europe’s richest men, investing some of his wealth to build influential stakes in Italian financial firms Mediobanca (MDBI.MI) and Generali (GASI.MI). Read more

The billionaire founded the Luxottica company in 1961, initially to supply components for eyewear, and remained the chairman and main shareholder of the world’s largest eyewear group after its alliance with the French Essilor in 2018.

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Fashion designer Giorgio Armani was among those paying tribute to Del Vecchio, with whom he had worked since the 1980s.

“Together, we invented a phenomenon that did not exist: we immediately realized that glasses, simple functional objects would become essential fashion accessories”, declared Armani. Read more

Partly raised in an orphanage, Del Vecchio’s rags-to-riches story reflected Italy’s own post-World War II recovery.

“Leonardo Del Vecchio was a great Italian. His story, from an orphanage to running a business empire, looks like a story from another time. But it’s an example for today and tomorrow. RIP” , European Commissioner for the Economy Paolo Gentiloni said on Twitter. .

SHOCK SENDS EQUITIES LOWER

Del Vecchio had remained an influential figure in Italian affairs and his death came as a shock.

“EssilorLuxottica announces today with sadness the death of its chairman,” the group said in a statement, adding that the board of directors would meet to “determine the next steps”.

He remained executive chairman of EssilorLuxottica (ESLX.PA) until December 2020, when he handed day-to-day management of the business to chief executive Francesco Milleri.

Del Vecchio’s influence has extended beyond his own company and by the end of 2021 he was the second richest man in Italy behind Giovanni Ferrero of Nutella’s manufacturing group, according to Forbes.

Its Delfin holding company is the largest shareholder in Italian financial services group Mediobanca (MDBI.MI) and has a stake of just under 10% in Italy’s biggest insurer Generali (GASI.MI). It also owns around 27% of the real estate company Covivio (CVO.PA), listed in both Paris and Milan.

Shares of EssilorLuxottica fell 1.8% at 10:50 GMT, while those of Generali and Mediobanca both fell 2.7%.

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Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi, additional reporting by Giulia Segreti and Federico Maccioni, writing by Keith Weir Editing by Barbara Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Hazel J. Edmonds

The author Hazel J. Edmonds