23/06/2024 4:17 AM


Piece of That Fashion

Leonardo Del Vecchio Dies at 87; Transformed Eyeglass Industry


Leonardo Del Vecchio, the Italian multibillionaire who rose from Dickensian poverty to develop a world-straddling behemoth that helped change the stodgy, fragmented eyeglass sector into a fashion-oriented organization, died on Monday in Milan. He was 87.

His loss of life was declared by the enterprise, now named EssilorLuxottica. No trigger was specified. A company spokeswoman mentioned he experienced died at San Raffaele Clinic.

Whilst largely unnoticed exterior of the marketplace, Luxottica, as the corporation was lengthy identified, realized as a great deal dominance in the lower-tech eyeglasses small business as Google and Amazon have in theirs.

Creating eyeglasses for luxury brands like Ray-Ban, Armani, Bulgari, Chanel and Brooks Brothers, and advertising them by means of business-owned retail chains like Pearle Eyesight, Lenscrafters and Sunglass Hut, the firm, which Mr. Del Vecchio begun in his residence in Agordo, Italy, additional than 60 several years back, turned the world’s major eyewear maker, with factories in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

And he grew to become a single of Italy’s wealthiest adult males. Forbes magazine ranked him and his spouse and children 52nd on its checklist of the world’s wealthiest people today this year, estimating their net value at $27.3 billion.

Key Minister Mario Draghi, in a statement, termed Mr. Del Vecchio “a main figure in Italian entrepreneurship” and “a great Italian.”

“He brought the group of Agordo and the complete country into the heart of the globe of innovation,” Mr. Draghi mentioned.

Born in Milan on Could 22, 1935, Mr. Del Vecchio was lifted in an orphanage. His father, a road peddler of greens, died just before Leonardo was born. His mom, with four other children previously, was unable to treatment for him.

At 14, he apprenticed as a metallic engraver and then moved on to a workshop that developed elements for eyeglass frames. “I started as the shop boy,” he recalled in a business video a lot of yrs later. “They did not get in touch with me Leonardo, but simply ‘boy.’”

In 1961, he moved to Agordo, a modest town in northeastern Italy, to open his individual workshop to make frame pieces. The town was providing absolutely free land to any one who opened a organization.

He created his fledgling enterprise, Luxottica, on a riverbank with an adjoining house for his youthful loved ones. He commenced his workday at 3 a.m. and had tiny time for anything else.

“There have been no kisses, no cuddles,” his eldest daughter, Marisa De Vecchio, recalled in “A Far-Sighted Person,” the official biography of Mr. Del Vecchio revealed by Luxottica in 1991. “Frankly, we were being terrified of him.”

Mr. Del Vecchio hit upon two improvements that would catapult him in excess of the competitiveness.

He insisted on managing all areas of the enterprise, from the output of body elements to their assembly into completed eyeglasses to their distribution via a around the world network of retail outlets.

He also pioneered the marriage of eyewear and style manufacturers, turning a utilitarian necessity into a style accessory as appealing as Gucci purses or Air Jordan sneakers. Beginning with Armani in 1988, in excess of the next two a long time he signed licensing offers with Ralph Lauren, Chanel and a dozen other perfectly-recognized designers. By elevating eyewear into trend, he was able to cost charges that often exceeded $1,000 for a pair of glasses.

As his organization grew, Mr. Del Vecchio acquired these kinds of proven rivals as Ray-Ban, Persol, Sunglass Hut, Pearle Eyesight and Oakley.

In 1990, he shown Luxottica on the New York Stock Trade, a uncommon shift for a midsize European business, providing it obtain to share capital and financing for an acquisition spree.

An oft-cited example of his determination to broaden was his 1995 hostile takeover of the Ohio-centered United States Shoe Corporation — a conglomerate with 5 times the market place worth of Luxottica. His only fascination was the company’s financially rewarding Lenscrafters merchants, the biggest optical chain in the United States.

So he acquired the enterprise for $1.4 billion and sold off everything except Lenscrafters.

Looking for to access each and every sector section, Luxottica offered cheap frames in acquiring nations, from time to time even offering absent glasses by charities.

By the time rivals caught on to the breadth of Mr. Del Vecchio’s ambitions, his organization experienced unique licenses with 80 % of the main designer makes and the electric power to established market selling prices across the eyeglass field.

Nearing 70, Mr. Del Vecchio announced his retirement in 2004, and turned in excess of management obligations to a more youthful executive, Andrea Guerra. But a ten years later on, Mr. Del Vecchio surprised his shareholders by retaking the reins of Luxottica.

In excess of the following 3 many years, analysts raised questions about the balance of both the business and its founder, as Mr. Del Vecchio ousted Mr. Guerra and then appointed and dismissed 3 other main executives.

But out of this chaos arrived Mr. Del Vecchio’s best offer. In 2017, at age 81, he introduced a merger concerning Luxottica and Essilor, the French business that manufactured just about fifty percent of the world’s prescription lenses. He was named govt chairman of EssilorLuxottica with a 32 percent stake. In a contact to traders disclosing the offer, he hailed it as “the achievement of a life span aspiration.”

For his Lilliputian rivals, the new conglomerate was a nightmare. “The new business will not technically be a monopoly,” observed The Guardian. “But in 7 generations of spectacles, there has in no way been nearly anything like it.”

Mr. Del Vecchio was married a few periods to two females and experienced 6 small children. With his initial wife, Luciana Nervo, he experienced two daughters, Marisa and Paola, and a son, Claudio, n
ow the chief govt of Brooks Brothers, the garments retailer. He had yet another son, Leonardo Maria, with his next spouse, Nicoletta Zampillo. Immediately 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, along with his six young children.

Even ahead of the Essilor merger, Luxottica’s dominance of the market resulted in revenue that have been “relatively obscene,” Tim Wu, a professor of law at Columbia University, told Forbes.

But the merger did not end Mr. Del Vecchio’s ambitions. In 2019, he pretty much doubled EssilorLuxottica’s retail community to additional than 16,000 shops throughout the globe by getting a greater part stake in GrandVision, the Dutch optical retailer.

A corporation assertion named the offer “another stage towards our ambition to eradicate inadequate vision in the planet ahead of 2050.”

Elisabetta Povoledo contributed reporting from Rome.


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