Leonardo Del Vecchio, the eyewear mogul, passed away at age 87. He leaves behind an enormous and inspirational legacy.
Leonardo Del Vecchio passed away on the 27th of June 2022 at the age of 87 in Segrate, Italy from Pneumonia. He was the founder and chairman of Luxottica – the world’s largest producer and retailer of glasses and frames.
Leonardo Del Vecchio was born on May 22nd 1935 in war-torn Milan. His mother, a widow from before his birth, was unable to care for him – so he was sent to an orphanage. He began working as an apprentice to a tool and dye maker when he was fourteen. Raised by the orphanage, he went on to strike out, setting up shop in the town of Agordo.
This is where his small supplier of eyeglass frame parts morphed into a global player. This later became EssilorLuxottica and a world industry leader. The company later acquired iconic brands such as Ray-Ban and Oakley. The rise brought Del Vecchio the second-largest fortune in Italy second to the Ferrero Family, with a net worth of $37.1 Billion.
Del Vecchio founded Luxottica in 1961. It all starts with spectacle design and dozens of workers to stimulate the local economy. Initially, they put together components for glasses the chairman and major shareholder.
In the late 1960s, Luxottica started producing its own designs and in the 1980s Del Vecchio began buying up companies in the US. In 1999 Del Vecchio acquired Ray-Ban for $US 640 million. He added a dash of Italian style to the spectacles and invested some of his riches into building stakes in Italian financial group Mediobanca and insurer Generali. Del Vecchio was the biggest shareholder in Mediobanca with a stake of just under twenty per cent.
Building His Empire
He remained executive chairman of EssilorLuxottica until December 2020, he handed the day-to-day leadership of the company to Chief Executive Francesco Milleri.
Leonardo Del Vecchio’s influence and celebrity extended beyond his own business and his death came as a shock to most. Del Vecchio was shy and secretive by nature and spent decades avoiding the media spotlight but in a rare conversation with a reporter this year, he was asked how he built his empire,
“I’ve always strived to be the best at everything I do – that’s it,” Mr Del Vecchio said. Describing the drive that took him to the top, he said simply, “I could never get enough.”
In this last interview, Leonardo Del Vecchio told what his final goal was to push EssilorLuxottica into the exclusive club of companies valued at more than $153 Billion.
Leonardo Del Vecchio passed away in Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital after being admitted with Pneumonia. Up to his death, he was still an active and influential figure in Italian Business and his death came as a shock. Del Vecchio leaves behind six children, with no publically designated heir.
Our condolences are with Leonardo Del Vecchio, his family and his friends.
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