Home Biographies Leonardo Del Vecchio

Leonardo Del Vecchio
Read in 25 min.
Listen in 31 min.
Learn the key ideas of the book by Tommaso Ebhardt

Leonardo Del Vecchio

The life of Luxottica’s millionaire founder

Leonardo del Vecchio was one of Italy’s leading industrialists, but how exactly did he amass his thirty-billion-dollar fortune? In this book, Tommaso Ebhardt retraces Del Vecchio’s footsteps, and discovers that Leonardo was a very shy man, who became an influential global leader by following a few simple rules, and that he is still today seen as a mentor, even among the young managers of technology giants. Through Del Vecchio’s adventures, Ebhardt also explores a chapter of Italian history, and discovers the tale of a small boy who achieved everything he ever dreamed of.

Leonardo Del Vecchio
Read in 25 min.
Listen in 31 min.

It doesn’t matter if our start in life puts us at a disadvantage: all we need is strength of character and perseverance to achieve success

Leonardo Del Vecchio rose to fame in 1991 as ‘the richest man in Italy’. He worked his way up from the lowest rungs of the social ladder, and amassed a personal fortune of more than $30 billion. He was born in Milan in 1935, and founded Luxottica in 1961, a small factory in Agordo, in the province of Belluno. The company went on to become a global leader in the eyewear industry.

Leonardo was the youngest child in a family of immigrants, who moved to Northern Italy in search of their fortune, and grew up in a house for the poor on the outskirts of Milan. Del Vecchio did not know his father, who died from acute interstitial pneumonia (AIP) just before he was born. His mother worked in a factory and had no one to care for Leonardo while she was at work, so she had no other option but to hand her son over to the Martinitt orphanage when he was seven years old. The rules at the orphanage were extremely strict and the discipline was harsh, but its philosophy shaped Leonardo’s young mind: it did not matter if you were a nobody, or if your start in life put you at a disadvantage; if you persevered and had strength of character, you could go far in life and achieve success. He learnt that perseverance makes the difference between success and failure, and can be developed from an early age. It is no coincidence that several other boys who grew up in the Martinitt orphanage, such as Edoardo Bianchi, the founder of Bianchi bicycles, and Angelo Rizzoli, who founded RCS Media Group, also became some of the most important and visionary Italian entrepreneurs of the 20th century.

Leonardo completed his primary education but then had to leave school, and one of his biggest regrets was that he was unable to finish his studies. He left the orphanage at the age of fourteen, and started working towards his dream of founding a company of his own. He found work as an apprentice in Milan at Johnson’s, a factory that produced medals and trophies, where he learnt how to make moulds. He became a skilled engraver and printer during his time at the factory. When his bosses realised how talented he was, they enrolled him in drawing and engraving courses at the Brera Academy, where he studied in the evenings. The three and a half years he spent at the Brera school changed the course of his entire life; when he was asked to engrave decorations on the temples of a few pairs of aluminium glasses, Del Vecchio realised the potential of the eyewear industry. He graduated as an engraver and began to live by his simple life philosophy: work hard, whatever your job may be, and be the best. Throughout his career, as soon as he saw an opportunity for growth, he picked it up and ran with it.


The key ideas of "Leonardo Del Vecchio"

It doesn’t matter if our start in life puts us at a disadvantage: all we need is strength of character and perseverance to achieve success
Del Vecchio founded his factory in Agordo, in the Belluno area, in 1961 thanks to council funding and with the help of two local partners
In the 1970s, Luxottica began producing its own eyewear, aiming for the vertical integration that Del Vecchio had always envisioned
Glasses became a fashionable accessory in the 80s, and Luxottica signed a successful deal with Armani
Luxottica’s listing on Wall Street allowed the company to establish its value, and access the financial resources required for further development
In 1999, Luxottica acquired the iconic American sunglasses brand, Ray-Ban
In the mid-2000s, Del Vecchio stepped back and appointed a brilliant young manager, Andrea Guerra, as CEO of Luxottica
The merger of Luxottica with the French Essilor group created the world’s largest optical group
Take-home message
4books preview

Try 4books Premium for free!