Italian entrepreneur and billionaire Leonardo Del Vecchio has died at the age of 87. The founder of the eyewear manufacturer Luxottica, which also owns the brands Ray-Ban and Oakley, was considered the second richest man in Italy.

The founder of the Italian luxury eyewear manufacturer Luxottica and the second richest man in Italy, Leonardo Del Vecchio, has died at the age of 87. For years he was head of the company, which also includes well-known brands such as Ray-Ban and Oakley. Del Vecchio died of complications from pneumonia, his company announced on Monday.

Del Vecchio grew up in an orphanage and began working at the age of 14

“Del Vecchio was a great Italian,” said Prime Minister Mario Draghi. The businessman and designer has placed the village of Agordo in the Dolomites, where he founded his company Luxottica in 1961 at the age of 26, and also the whole country of Italy at the center of the world of innovation.

Del Vecchio was born in 1935, his family lived in poor circumstances. As a child, he was placed in an orphanage and began working at the age of 14, initially as a laborer in a small eyewear factory. In 1961 he founded his own company Luxottica, which initially produced parts and accessories for optics manufacturers with a small workforce. Ten years later, the company launched its first own eyewear models, and in 1974 it began supplying the retail trade.

Del Vecchio gave employees shares worth 9 million euros

Over the years, Del Vecchio grew the business. In 1990, Luxottica went public on the New York Stock Exchange and traded there for 27 years. He signed contracts with luxury brands such as Giorgio Armani, Chanel, Tiffany, Prada or Versace to produce glasses for them and bought the Ray-Ban brand. In 2018, Luxottica merged with the French lens manufacturer Essilor. Del Vecchio remained on the board and majority shareholder of his company until his death.

“Forbes” estimates his fortune at $ 27.3 billion (almost 26 billion euros). For his 80th birthday, Del Vecchio gave employees shares worth 9 million euros. They are “the true makers of our company’s success,” he explained.