Here’s How Many Billions The Heirs Of Italy’s Second Richest Man–Who Died Monday–Stand To Inherit

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Giacomo Tognini   Forbes U.S. Staff

Here’s How Many Billions The Heirs Of Italy’s Second Richest Man–Who Died Monday–Stand To Inherit

Eyewear mogul Leonardo del Vecchio—whose firm owns Ray-Ban, Sunglass Hut and more—died at age 87, with a fortune worth an estimated $25.5 billion and six children from three different relationships.

The death of Italy’s second-richest man, Leonardo Del Vecchio, means that his estimated $25.5 billion fortune will now be divided among his heirs. The 87-year-old eyewear mogul leaves behind his second wife, Nicoletta Zampillo, and six children from three different relationships, ranging in age from 18 to 65. All seven are now likely to become billionaires, inheriting Del Vecchio’s Luxembourg-based holding company Delfin and its billions of dollars in assets.

One of Italy’s most famous entrepreneurs with a rags-to-riches tale of success, the factory apprentice-turned-eyewear mogul lived in Monaco and held his vast fortune—including ownership of Sunglass Hut, Ray-Ban and Oakley—through Luxembourg-based Delfin. After a reorganization of the firm’s holding structure in 2014, he held on to a 25% direct stake, with the remaining 75% divided among his six children: Claudio (age 65,) Marisa (63) and Paola (61) from his first marriage to Luciana Nervo, who he reportedly divorced in the 1990s; Leonardo Maria (27) from his marriage to Zampillo, whom he married in 1997, divorced in 2000 and later remarried in 2010; and Luca (21) and Clemente (18) from his relationship with Sabina Grossi, a former Luxottica board member and the company’s former head of investor relations.

The vast majority of Del Vecchio’s net worth—$22.2 billion—is tied up in his 32% stake in publicly traded EssilorLuxottica, the world’s largest eyewear firm, which was the product of a merger between Del Vecchio’s Luxottica and French prescription lenses giant Essilor in 2018.

The next most valuable assets are a nearly 10% stake in Italian insurer Generali, worth about $2.6 billion; just under 20% of Italian bank Mediobanca; 27% of French real estate investment firm Covivio and about 2% of Italian bank Unicredit. Del Vecchio also owned the $26 million, 203-foot yacht Moneikos as well as nearly $80 million in other assets including real estate in Monaco, France and Luxembourg, a Gulfstream G650 jet, a yacht marina in northeastern Italy and a 13% stake in Luxembourg’s national airline Luxair. Forbes also estimates that Del Vecchio and Delfin owed about $3.1 billion in debt.

Delfin’s 2014 reorganization stipulated that Del Vecchio’s 25% stake would pass to his wife Zampillo after his death. Delfin’s articles of association state that any financial decisions will need to be agreed upon by 88% of shareholders—effectively requiring unanimity among Del Vecchio’s heirs. Forbes estimates that the 25% stake Zampillo stands to inherit is worth about $6.4 billion (pre-tax) while the six children’s stakes are each worth roughly $3.2 billion (pre-tax.) A representative for Delfin confirmed the ownership structure.

The best known of Del Vecchio’s children is his oldest son Claudio. Sent to the U.S. by his father in 1982 at age 25 (back then he didn’t understand English,) he ran the U.S. arm of Luxottica for 15 years. During that time he helped orchestrate a public offering, acquired LensCrafters for $1.4 billion in 1995 ($2.7 billion in today’s dollars) and boosted its North American sales 26-fold to $2 billion, as Forbes reported in 2001. But the co-chief executive of Luxottica was frustrated, as his success was often overlooked by his father and investors who rightfully gave the older Del Vecchio most of the credit. So when his father complained about a U.S. retailer he’d gotten as part of the LensCrafters deal, Claudio jumped at the chance to run his own business.

In 1998, the eldest Del Vecchio child traded a not quite $50 million chunk of his shares in Luxottica for the struggling retailer, Casual Corner. After a decade of losses, Claudio turned things around: Casual Corner netted $40 million on revenue of $808 million in the fiscal year ending January 31, 2001. "It was a challenge to prove he could run a business on his own," said his father at the time.

Later in 2001, Claudio bought iconic menswear firm Brooks Brothers for a reported $225 million ($372 million in today’s dollars.) He sold off Casual Corner four years later to focus on Brooks Brothers, which he ran until July 2020, when it filed for bankruptcy. Soon after, a venture backed by licensing company Authentic Brands and mall owner Simon Property bought Brooks Brothers in bankruptcy for $325 million.

In May of 2021, clothing maker TAL Apparel, a minority investor in Brooks Brothers, sued the Del Vecchio family, accusing Claudio and his son Matteo (who had been an executive at Brooks Brothers) of driving it into bankruptcy instead of selling it to avoid paying TAL millions of dollars in expected proceeds from a sale. A person close to the Del Vecchio family told Reuters at the time that they believed the allegations to be false and expected the court would dismiss the case. TAL voluntarily dismissed the case in the Southern District of New York in August for lack of jurisdiction and filed a new lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court the following month, which is still ongoing. Matteo, who is now a senior vice president of EssilorLuxottica North America, paid $5.5 million in January 2021 for a three-bedroom home in Manhattan’s Woolworth Building.

Leonardo’s second-oldest son, Leonardo Maria, is also involved in the family business as the head of Italian retail for Luxottica. The other children—Paola, Marisa, Clemente and Luca—have a much lower profile and are not known to be involved in any of Del Vecchio’s companies.

It’s likely that Del Vecchio’s estate will pass on to his heirs virtually tax-free. Luxembourg, where Delfin is based, doesn’t tax inheritance if the deceased was not a resident of the country, while Monaco, where he resided until his death, doesn’t levy inheritance tax on assets passed to spouses or direct descendants. Five of Del Vecchio’s six children live in Italy, while Claudio lives in a nine-bedroom estate replete with a wine cellar, swimming pool and a dog spa in Muttontown, Long Island, which has been for sale since early 2021, initially for $12.5 million and now for $11 million. Attorneys for Claudio Del Vecchio declined to comment.

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Giacomo Tognini   Forbes U.S. Staff

I cover billionaires and their wealth for Forbes. In the past, I've covered everything from oil & gas for Bloomberg News to the 2014 Indonesian presidential election for the Jakarta Globe. I'm a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and UC Berkeley, and my work has also appeared in the Houston Chronicle, the Calgary Herald, and more