MILAN (Reuters) — Andrea Guerra, chief executive of Italy’s Luxottica, is close to leaving the eyewear group after differences of opinion with founder and chairman Leonardo Del Vecchio, several newspapers said on Wednesday.
Luxottica, whose brands include Ray-Ban and Oakley, issued a statement saying, “The group is not commenting on today’s media speculation. At present no board meeting has been called. We can confirm that for some time the Chairman Leonardo Del Vecchio and the cel Andrea Guerra have been debating the best strategic direction for the group.”
The company’s shares were down 4.5 percent in morning trading.
Guerra, who earlier this year was tipped to become a minister in Matteo Renzi’s government, is credited with helping turn family controlled Luxottica into the world’s largest eyewear maker by revenue.
But according to a report in Corriere della Sera, relations between Guerra and patriarch Del Vecchio soured after Guerra’s recent deal with Google to market its Internet-connected spectacles.
The paper cited a source close to Guerra as saying the next move was in the hands of 79-year-old Del Vecchio, one of Italy’s richest men who owns 66.5 percent of Luxottica.
“He (Guerra) is a good manager and the stock is reacting. But the company was created by Del Vecchio, not Guerra,” said Roberto Lottici, a fund manager at Ifigest who said he had bought Luxottica’s shares on Wednesday morning.
Under Guerra, Luxottica has become a world leader in its sector through innovation and acquisitions, including the purchase of U.S. sports eyewear firm Oakley in 2007. Last year, the group had sales of 7.3 billion euros, or $9.7 billion.
Since he became cel in 2004, shares in Luxottica have nearly trebled in value.
Luxottica’s stable of icensed brands include Chanel, Giorgio Armani, Polo Ralph Lauren, Prada, Tiffany and Versace. The company has more than 7,000 optical and sun stores and its chains include LensCrafters, Pearle Vision and ILORI in North America and Sunglass Hut worldwide.