Leonardo Del Vecchio, the Italian multibillionaire who rose from Dickensian poverty to construct a globe-straddling behemoth that helped remodel the stodgy, fragmented eyeglass business right into a fashion-oriented enterprise, died on Monday in Milan. He was 87.
His demise was announced by the company, now referred to as EssilorLuxottica. No trigger was given. An organization spokeswoman mentioned he had died at San Raffaele Hospital.
Although largely unnoticed exterior of the business, Luxottica, as the corporate was lengthy identified, achieved as a lot dominance within the low-tech eyeglasses enterprise as Google and Amazon have in theirs.
Producing glasses for luxurious manufacturers like Ray-Ban, Armani, Bulgari, Chanel and Brooks Brothers, and promoting them via company-owned retail chains like Pearle Vision, Lenscrafters and Sunglass Hut, the corporate, which Mr. Del Vecchio began in his dwelling in Agordo, Italy, greater than 60 years in the past, grew to become the world’s largest eyewear maker, with factories in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
And he grew to become one among Italy’s wealthiest males. Forbes journal ranked him and his household 52nd on its checklist of the world’s wealthiest individuals this yr, estimating their internet value at $27.3 billion.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi, in a press release, referred to as Mr. Del Vecchio “a leading figure in Italian entrepreneurship” and “a great Italian.”
“He brought the community of Agordo and the entire country into the center of the world of innovation,” Mr. Draghi mentioned.
Born in Milan on May 22, 1935, Mr. Del Vecchio was raised in an orphanage. His father, a road peddler of greens, died earlier than Leonardo was born. His mom, with 4 different youngsters already, was unable to take care of him.
At 14, he apprenticed as a metallic engraver after which moved on to a workshop that produced elements for eyeglass frames. “I started as the shop boy,” he recalled in an organization video a few years later. “They didn’t call me Leonardo, but simply ‘boy.’”
In 1961, he moved to Agordo, a small city in northeastern Italy, to open his personal workshop to make body elements. The city was providing free land to anyone who opened a enterprise.
He constructed his fledgling enterprise, Luxottica, on a riverbank with an adjoining dwelling for his younger household. He started his workday at 3 a.m. and had little time for anything.
“There were no kisses, no cuddles,” his eldest daughter, Marisa De Vecchio, recalled in “A Far-Sighted Man,” the official biography of Mr. Del Vecchio printed by Luxottica in 1991. “Frankly, we were scared of him.”
Mr. Del Vecchio come across two improvements that may catapult him over the competitors.
He insisted on controlling all elements of the enterprise, from the manufacturing of body elements to their meeting into completed eyeglasses to their distribution via a worldwide community of shops.
He additionally pioneered the wedding of eyewear and vogue manufacturers, turning a utilitarian necessity right into a vogue accent as fascinating as Gucci purses or Air Jordan sneakers. Beginning with Armani in 1988, over the subsequent 20 years he signed licensing offers with Ralph Lauren, Chanel and a dozen different well-known designers. By elevating eyewear into vogue, he was capable of cost costs that typically exceeded $1,000 for a pair of glasses.
As his enterprise grew, Mr. Del Vecchio purchased such established rivals as Ray-Ban, Persol, Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision and Oakley.
In 1990, he listed Luxottica on the New York Stock Exchange, a uncommon transfer for a midsize European firm, giving it entry to share capital and financing for an acquisition spree.
An oft-cited instance of his willpower to increase was his 1995 hostile takeover of the Ohio-based United States Shoe Corporation — a conglomerate with 5 occasions the market worth of Luxottica. His solely curiosity was the corporate’s worthwhile Lenscrafters shops, the most important optical chain within the United States.
So he purchased the corporate for $1.4 billion and offered off all the pieces besides Lenscrafters.
Seeking to succeed in each market phase, Luxottica offered cheap frames in growing nations, typically even gifting away glasses via charities.
By the time rivals caught on to the breadth of Mr. Del Vecchio’s ambitions, his firm had unique licenses with 80 % of the most important designer manufacturers and the ability to set market costs throughout the eyeglass business.
Nearing 70, Mr. Del Vecchio introduced his retirement in 2004, and turned over administration duties to a youthful government, Andrea Guerra. But a decade later, Mr. Del Vecchio stunned his shareholders by retaking the reins of Luxottica.
Over the subsequent three years, analysts raised questions concerning the stability of each the corporate and its founder, as Mr. Del Vecchio ousted Mr. Guerra after which appointed and dismissed three different chief executives.
But out of this chaos got here Mr. Del Vecchio’s biggest deal. In 2017, at age 81, he introduced a merger between Luxottica and Essilor, the French firm that made virtually half of the world’s prescription lenses. He was named government chairman of EssilorLuxottica with a 32 % stake. In a name to traders disclosing the deal, he hailed it as “the achievement of a lifetime dream.”
For his Lilliputian rivals, the brand new conglomerate was a nightmare. “The new firm will not technically be a monopoly,” noted The Guardian. “But in seven centuries of spectacles, there has never been anything like it.”
Mr. Del Vecchio was married thrice to 2 girls and had six youngsters. With his first spouse, Luciana Nervo, he had two daughters, Marisa and Paola, and a son, Claudio, now the chief government of Brooks Brothers, the clothes retailer. He had one other son, Leonardo Maria, along with his second spouse, Nicoletta Zampillo. After divorcing her in 2000, he had two sons, Luca and Clemente, with a girlfriend, Sabina Grossi. He remarried Ms. Zampillo in 2010. She survives him, alongside along with his six youngsters.
Even earlier than the Essilor merger, Luxottica’s dominance of the market resulted in earnings that had been “relatively obscene,” Tim Wu, a professor of regulation at Columbia University, instructed Forbes.
But the merger didn’t finish Mr. Del Vecchio’s ambitions. In 2019, he virtually doubled EssilorLuxottica’s retail community to greater than 16,000 retailers throughout the globe by buying a majority stake in GrandVision, the Dutch optical retailer.
An organization assertion referred to as the deal “another step toward our ambition to eradicate poor vision in the world before 2050.”
Elisabetta Povoledo contributed reporting from Rome.