Leonardo Del Vecchio (born 22 May 1935) is an Italian billionaire businessman, the founder and chairman of Luxottica,. the world’s largest producer and retailer of glasses and lenses, with 77,734 employees and over 7,000 stores. As of January 2018, Del Vecchio was estimated by Forbes to have a net worth of $21.9 billion, making him the second richest man in Italy, and the 47th richest in the world.
Life and career
Leonardo Del Vecchio was born in 1935 in Milan, Italy, to an impoverished family from Barletta, Southern Italy. He began his career as an apprentice to a tool and die maker in Milan, but decided to turn his metalworking skills to make spectacle parts. So in 1961 he moved to Agordo in the province of Belluno, which is home to most of the Italian eyewear industry. The new company was Luxottica s.a.s., a limited partnership. In 1967, he started selling complete eyeglass frames under the Luxottica brand, and in 1971 he entered the contract manufacturing business. In 1974, he acquired Scarrone, a distribution company. In 1981 the company set up its first international subsidiary, in Germany. A licensing deal with the designer Giorgio Armani was settled in 1988.
The company listed in New York in 1990, and in Milan in December 2000, joining the MIB-30 (now S&P/MIB) index in September 2003. The listing enhanced the company’s ability to acquire other brands, starting with Italian brand Vogue in 1990, Persol and US Shoe Corporation (LensCrafters) in 1995, Ray-Ban in 1999 and Sunglass Hut, Inc. in 2001. They went looking for more retail companies, acquiring Sydney-based OPSM in 2003, Pearle Vision in 2004, Surfeyes in 2006, and Cole National in 2004. Most recently, they acquired Oakley in a US$2.1bn deal in November 2007.
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