• Fri. Sep 23rd, 2022

The rags-to-riches story of billionaire Ray Ban Leonardo Del Vecchio, who was raised in an orphanage

ByRandall B. Phelps

Jun 27, 2022

Businessman Leonardo del Vecchio, who died aged 87, created the eyewear company which owns brands including Ray-Ban and used his billions to become one of the most influential figures in the Italian finance.

Del Vecchio went from growing up in an orphanage to amassing a fortune of tens of billions of euros in one of the most famous stories of Italy’s post-war economic crisis.

At the end of 2021, he was the second richest man in Italy, behind only Giovanni Ferrero of the Nutella group, according to Forbes.

As is common in Italy, Del Vecchio, the chairman of eyewear manufacturer EssilorLuxottica, did not retire quietly and, on the contrary, stepped up his business activities when he was over 80 years old.

In 2018, he sealed a major merger deal to combine the Luxottica company he founded in 1961 with France’s Essilor.

In addition, his Delfin holding company is the main shareholder of the Italian financial services group Mediobanca and also has a large stake in the insurer Generali, putting it at the heart of the intrigues of the country’s boards of directors.

Del Vecchio was born into poverty. His father, who sold fruits and vegetables, died when he was young, and his mother entrusted him to a Milanese orphanage when he was seven years old because she could not afford to raise him.

He learned metalworking in a tool shop before setting up a business supplying eyewear components in Agordo, a village in the foothills of the Dolomites in northeastern Italy where land was offered to new companies.


After a rocky start where it nearly went bankrupt, the company began making its own eyewear a decade later and grew rapidly in the 1980s when Del Vecchio saw the value of making eyewear as an accessory. fashion rather than a necessity.

He entered into licensing agreements with Giorgio Armani in 1988 and later worked with other luxury brands such as Bulgari, Chanel, Prada and Valentino.

Acquisitions were also part of Del Vecchio’s strategy.

In 1999, the company bought the famous Ray-Ban brand and subsequently acquired Oakley in California as well as chain stores in North America and Australia.


Like many aging Italian entrepreneurs, critics say Del Vecchio struggled to break away from his creation, failing to cede control and designate an heir.

He has six children from three relationships and remarried his second wife in 2010.

For a decade, he loosened his business, passing the baton to Andrea Guerra, while remaining chairman of Luxottica.

But disagreements with Guerra led to his sudden exit in the summer of 2014, and Del Vecchio once again became the driving force behind Luxottica’s Milan headquarters.

He increasingly involved himself in even trivial matters, such as telling staff how to pack boxes for an office move, former employees say.

Del Vecchio was also caught up in a series of board battles and the EssilorLuxottica deal was followed by a protracted fight over how to split the leadership positions between the Italian and French camps.

This story was published from a news feed with no text edits. Only the title has been changed.

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