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Italian eyewear billionaire Del Vecchio has died at the age of 87 – AFR

Italy’s second richest man, eyewear magnate Leonardo Del Vecchio, has died aged 87 after building an optical empire by buying big brands like Ray-Ban, Persol and Oakley.

One of Italy’s most successful businessmen, Del Vecchio built from the ground up an international company that helped make eyewear a coveted – and expensive – fashion accessory.

According to the Forbes World Billionaires List 2022, his fortune was worth an estimated $27.3 billion.

His company EssilorLuxottica confirmed on Monday that he had “passed away” at the age of 87.

According to the Italian news agency AGI, Del Vecchio had been in intensive care at Milan’s San Raffaele hospital for the past few weeks.

Born on May 22, 1935 in Milan to a poor family, he spent part of his youth in an orphanage and began working as a teenager.

In 1961 he founded his own company, Luxottica, which supplies components to the optical industry.

A decade later, Del Vecchio made the strategic decision to control all parts of the production process.

Luxottica began manufacturing its own eyewear and distributed it throughout Italy before expanding through joint ventures in Europe.

Seeing the benefit of partnering with fashion design brands including Giorgio Armani, he branched out into retail and snapped up trendy eyewear brands like Ray-Ban, Persol and Oakley.

In the 1980s he signed his first licensing deal with Giorgio Armani as eyewear evolved into a fashion accessory, a trend that continues to this day.

Luxottica also bought retailers like LensCrafters and Sunglass Hut, allowing the company to enter the consumer market directly without intermediaries.

In 2018, Luxottica merged with French company Essilor to form EssilorLuxottica, with Del Vecchio serving as chairman. In 2021, the public company had sales of 19.8 billion euros (20.9 billion USD).

“Leonardo Del Vecchio was a great Italian,” wrote EU Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni on Twitter, calling his success “an example for today and tomorrow”.

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