Italian billionaire Leonardo Del Vecchio, founder and chairman of the world’s largest eyewear maker Luxottica, died on Monday aged 87, his company said.
With over 70,000 employees and about 8,000 stores worldwide, Del Vecchio was the second richest person in Italy – after the owner of multinational group and Nutella-maker Ferrero – and the 54th in the world.
He was born in 1935 in the northern Italian city of Milan to an impoverished family from Barletta, in southern Italy, and grew up in an orphanage. He began his career as an apprentice and in 1961 moved to Agordo, in the province of Belluno, which is home to most of the Italian eyewear industry.
In the late 1960s, he started selling complete frames under the Luxottica brand, which in a few years set up many international subsidiaries, becoming an international group.
The company listed in New York in 1990 and in Milan in December 2000, and soon acquired other popular brands, starting with Italian Vogue in 1990, Persol and US Shoe Corporation (LensCrafters) in 1995, Ray-Ban in 1999 and Sunglass Hut, Inc. in 2001. In 2018, it combined forces with France’s Essilor in a major merger.
“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 wrote on Twitter.