Leonardo Del Vecchio, chairman of eyewear maker EssilorLuxottica (ESLOF) and one of Italy’s wealthiest business figures, has died at the age of 87, his company reported Monday.
“EssilorLuxottica is sad to announce that its chairman has passed away,” the group said in a statement, adding that the board would meet to “determine next steps”.
Del Vecchio went from a childhood in an orphanage to amassing a fortune of tens of billions of euros in one of the most famous rags-to-riches stories of Italy’s post-war economic recovery.
“Leonardo Del Vecchio was a great Italian. His story, from being an orphan to leading a business empire, seems like a story from another time. But it is an example for today and tomorrow. RIP,” said European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni, on Twitter.
The Italian businessman founded Luxottica in 1961 and built a company that owns the Ray-Ban brand and combined forces with France’s Essilor in a major merger in 2018.
He remained CEO of EssilorLuxottica until December 2020, when he handed over day-to-day management of the company to CEO Francesco Milleri. He had personally supported Milleri at the helm of the Franco-Italian eyewear giant when the merged group was created.
Del Vecchio’s influence extended beyond his own business and, by the end of 2021, he was the second-richest man in Italy, behind Giovanni Ferrero of the Nutella-making group, according to Forbes.
His Delfin holding company is the largest shareholder in Italian financial services group Mediobanca and has a just under 10% stake in Italy’s largest insurer, Generali. He also owns around 7% of the real estate company Covivio, which is listed in both Paris and Milan.
“With the passing of Del Vecchio, Milan loses one of the most emblematic figures in its recent history,” the mayor of Milan Giuseppe Sala said on Twitter.
Shares in Mediobanca fell more than 4% on the reports, Generali fell almost 2.5%, while EssilorLuxottica – in which Delfin owns a controlling 32% stake – was unchanged at just under 148. euros per share.