“EssilorLuxottica regrets to announce today that its chairman has passed away,” the group said in a statement, adding that the board will meet to “determine the next steps.”
Del Vecchio grew up in an orphanage to amass a fortune of tens of billions of euros in one of the most famous rags-to-riches stories in Italy’s post-war economic recovery.
“Leonardo Del Vecchio was a great Italian. His story, from an orphanage to running a business empire, seems like a story from another time. But this is an example of today and tomorrow. Rest in peace,” European Commissioner for Economic Affairs Paolo Gentiloni tweeted. .
The Italian businessman founded Luxottica in 1961 and created the company that owned the Ray-Ban brand before joining forces with France’s Essilor in a major merger in 2018.
He remained the executive chairman of EssilorLuxottica until December 2020, when he handed over day-to-day running of the company to CEO Francesco Milleri. He personally supported Millery as head of the Franco-Italian eyewear giant when the combined group was being set up.
Del Vecchio’s influence extended beyond his own business, according to Forbes, and at the end of 2021 he was the second richest person in Italy behind Giovanni Ferrero of the Nutella production group.
His holding company, Delfin, is the largest shareholder in Italian financial services group Mediobanca and owns just under 10% of Italy’s largest insurance company, Generali. He also owns about 7% of Covivio, a real estate company listed in both Paris and Milan.
“With the departure of Del Vecchio, Milan is losing one of the most emblematic figures of its recent history,” Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala tweeted.
Shares in Mediobanca fell more than 4% after the report, Generali fell almost 2.5%, while EssilorLuxottica, in which Delfin holds a controlling stake of 32%, remained unchanged at just under 148 euros per share.