Leonardo Del Vecchio is one of the richest men in not just Italy but the entire world. After all, he is the founder as well as the chairman of the Luxottica Group, which is one of the most powerful companies in the eyeglasses market. However, the story of his rise is much more interesting because of how he started from humble beginnings but nonetheless managed to make it to the top of his chosen line of business.
Here are 10 things that you may or may not have known about Leonardo Del Vecchio:
1. His Name Means “Of the Old Man”
Del Vecchio translates to “of the old one.” As a result, it is thought that the surname started seeing use because of people who were either the children, the servants, or people otherwise associated with old men. However, it is interesting to note that the surname sees a fair amount of use in Italian Jewish families because a lot of them adopted the surname in the late 15th century to distinguish themselves from relative newcomers fleeing from the Iberian peninsula.
2. Born in Milan
Given Luxottica’s location, it should come as no surprise to learn that Del Vecchio was born in Milan in 1935. In those times as in the present, Milan was one of the most populous cities on the Italian peninsula, which in turn, made it one of the most important cities in the same place as well.
3. Impoverished Childhood
Del Vecchio comes from an impoverished background. His father is said to have died five months before he was born. As a result, when his mother gave birth to him, she gave him up to an orphanage because she was not able to support him on her own.
4. Apprenticed to a Tool and Die Maker
At the start, Leonardo Del Vecchio was an apprentice to a tool and die maker. As a result, he picked up a fair amount of metalworking skill, which became useful for his future choice of career.
5. Moved to Agordo
In time, Del Vecchio decided to use his metalworking skills to make parts for eyeglasses. As a result, he decided to move to a town called Agordo, which was where the Italian eyeglasses industry was centered. In fact, Agordo was the headquarters of Luxottica before it was moved to Del Vecchio’s hometown of Milan.
6. Big Believer in Vertical Integration
Del Vecchio is a believer in vertical integration, which means buying companies that are responsible for separate stages of the production process so as to achieve greater efficiencies than those companies can manage on their own. For proof, look at how he bought out a distribution company called Scarrone as early as 1974, which was within seven years of the founding of Luxottica.
7. Expanded Overseas
Speaking of which, Luxottica has seen a fair amount of overseas expansion, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to its recent activities. The first international subsidiary belonging to Luxottica was set up in Germany as early as in 1981.
8. Luxottica Owns a Number of Well-Known Brands
It might interest some people to know that Luxottica owns a number of well-known brands. For example, it bought out Lenscrafter in 1995, which was followed by Ray-Ban in 1999 and then Sunglass Hut in 2001. Combined with the buy-out of Oakley in 2007, it is no exaggeration to say that Luxottica has a huge presence in the eyeglasses market whether people realize it or not.
9. The Luxottica-Essilor Merger Being Looked At by the EU
Recently, it was announced that the European Union is looking into the merger between Luxottica and Essilor because of anti-trust issues. Technically, one specializes in making frames while the other specializes in making lens, but there can be no doubt that the resulting company would have a powerful position in each step of the production process. Something that causes major concern in not just its competitors but also in the relevant authorities who are responsible for preventing companies from monopolizing markets.
10. Owns Shares in Other Companies
Given his wealth, it should come as no surprise to learn that Del Vecchio has shares in a number of companies. Primarily, he is known for owning a significant percentage of the shares in Luxottica, but it is interesting to note that he owns a significant percentage of shares in a French real estate company as well as an Italian insurance company.