Portrait of Leonardo Del Vecchio, founder of Luxottica

Portrait of Leonardo Del Vecchio, founder of Luxottica

Portrait of Leonardo Del Vecchio

Leonardo Del Vecchio, founder of Luxottica, the largest eyeglass frame company in the world, died at the age of 87 from complications related to pneumonia. This was announced by EssilorLuxottica, the multinational company born in 2018 from the merger of Luxottica and the French Essilor of which Del Vecchio was president. For years one of the richest men in Italy and shareholder of Mediobanca, Generali and Covivio among others, Del Vecchio was one of the most important Italian entrepreneurs of the last century.

Born in Milan on 22 May 1935 from a family of modest origin, Del Vecchio is the last of four brothers. His father, whose name he bears, dies shortly before his birth and Leonardo Del Vecchio spends most of his first fourteen years of life in an orphanage. After that, he worked for a few years as an apprentice in a factory producing medals and cups while following evening design courses at the Brera Academy, and at 22, he moved to Trentino Alto-Adige, where he worked for a few months as a worker in a metal factory. Then, in 1958, he opened his first eyewear frame shop in Agordo, in the province of Belluno, and thanks to some initial success, in 1961 he made it a real company, Luxottica, with fourteen employees.

What leads Luxottica to become globally relevant in the market in a few decades is a gradual but continuous path. Over time, the company moved from producing glasses for third parties to producing them on its own, and in the 1980s it began to take over other eyewear manufacturers, thus expanding into the global market. In 1990, Luxottica goes public on the Milan Stock Exchange, and in the following years it implements a purchasing strategy of the main brands in the world, including giants such as Prada, Chanel, Versace, Bulgari, Vogue, Rayban and others, which led it to establish effectively a monopoly on the market.

Mark Zuckerberg meets Luxottica's Leonardo Del Vecchio in Milan for the smart glasses of the future An interview to discuss the next generations of smart glasses. Tested a prototype of a bracelet with a neural interface that will allow to control glasses and other devices The merger with the French Essilor, the largest lens manufacturer in the world, then gives life to a new giant in the sector, EssilorLuxottica, today the largest distribution system in the world of optics, with approximately 180,000 employees. In recent months, Del Vecchio meets Mark Zuckerberg. At the center of the discussion, the future plans of the already consolidated collaboration between Meta and the largest world holding company for the production and sale of eyewear and lenses regarding smart glasses to be released in the coming years.

Billionaire Ray-Ban owner Leonardo Del Vecchio dies at 87

MILAN — Italy’s 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 said on Monday.

Del Vecchio added a dash of Italian style to spectacles and became one of Europe’s wealthiest men, investing some of his riches to build influential stakes in Italian financial companies Mediobanca and Generali.

The billionaire founded the Luxottica business in 1961, initially to supply components for glasses, and remained the chairman and major shareholder in the world’s biggest eyewear group after it combined forces with France’s Essilor in 2018.

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

“Together, we invented a phenomenon that did not exist: we immediately realised that glasses, from simple functional objects would become indispensable fashion accessories,” Armani said.

Partly raised in an orphanage, Del Vecchio’s rags-to-riches story mirrored Italy’s own recovery after World War Two.

“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.

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

“EssilorLuxottica sadly announces today that its chairman has passed away,” the group said in a statement, adding that the the board would meet to “determine the next steps”.

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.

Del Vecchio’s influence extended beyond his own business and at the end of 2021, he was Italy’s second richest man 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 stake of just under 10% in Italy’s largest insurer Generali. It also owns about 27% of real estate company Covivio, listed in both Paris and Milan.

Shares in EssilorLuxottica traded 1.8% lower by 1050 GMT, while those in Generali and Mediobanca both slipped 2.7%.