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Benetton co-founder returns to rescue embattled Italian icon

The 82-year-old co-founder of iconic Italian fashion retailer Benetton has taken over control of the family business from non-family executives as it struggles with mounting losses.

The 82-year-old co-founder of iconic Italian fashion retailer Benetton has taken over control of the family business from non-family executives as it struggles with mounting losses. 

In 1965 Luciano Benetton (pictured) established the company with his three siblings that became famous for colourful knitwear and provocative advertising campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s.

He served as Benetton's chairman from 1978 to 2012.

"In 2008, I left the company with €155 million ($183 million) in assets, and am taking it back now with the €81 million losses from 2016. And this year it will be worse," the 82-year old said in an interview with La Repubblica.

"It is an intolerable pain. That's why I'm going back," he told the Italian daily.

Alessandro Benetton, Luciano’s son, left the Benetton Group board in December 2016, handing over to non-family executives.

The 52-year-old had been a member of the board for 18 years and was previously chairman of the board of directors from 2012 to 2014.

At the time the board called the heir’s exit part of the regular rotation of the board, but union members were reported to have raised questions over the company’s future, according to the Associated Press.

Benetton is the latest Italian fashion or luxury business to see its ageing founder return. 

Leonardo Del Vecchio, founder of Italian eyewear brand Luxottica, returned to control in 2016 after a succession of departures by non-family chief executives.

It comes at the same time that 83-year-old Giorgio Armani weighs succession of his $6 billion fashion fortune as has no clear successor. His nieces and nephew are likely to control the company through a foundation.

The Benetton family’s largest asset is not its well-known clothing arm, but toll road operator Atlantia, which is owned by Edizione, the Benetton family’s holding company. Edizione also has interests in mobility services, food and beverage, real estate and agriculture.

Edizione turned over €11.6 billion in 2016 including $1.38 billion from the Benetton’s namesake clothing lines.

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