Oliviero Toscani and Luciano Benetton.

MILAN — Benetton Group on Thursday abruptly terminated its collaboration with Oliviero Toscani.

In a terse statement, the Italian fashion group and its chairman Luciano Benetton said they “disassociate themselves in the most absolute terms” from Toscani’s declarations regarding the collapse of Genoa’s Morandi bridge in 2018, and “realize it is impossible to continue the collaboration and relationship with its creative director.”

The decision was made after Toscani sent shock waves a day earlier by saying during a radio interview: “Who cares about the collapse of a bridge?” Although the feisty photographer later apologized, Benetton clearly could not let this go.

“Luciano Benetton and all the company renew their sincere [sympathy and compassion] to the families of the victims and to all those involved in this awful tragedy,” read the statement.

When he returned to helm the company in 2018, Luciano Benetton called Toscani to reimagine the communication of United Colors of Benetton and to relaunch think-tank Fabrica. The two men famously collaborated for years on controversial ad campaigns in the Eighties and Nineties.

The Benetton family’s image and business took a hit following the collapse of the bridge.  One of the Benettons’ companies was allegedly involved in the collapse of Genoa’s Morandi bridge in August 2018, causing 43 deaths, hundreds of evacuees and much structural damage. Opened in 1967 and part of the A10 highway linking the French and Italian rivieras, the bridge was maintained and operated by Autostrade Per l’Italia. This is the prime Italian highway player and is 88 percent owned by infrastructure company Atlantia. The Benettons family’s holding company Edizione controls 30.25 percent of Atlantia.

The Benettons’ involvement added to the high resonance the disaster got for both the number of casualties and significant damage as well as the controversies surrounding the structure, whose condition and high maintenance costs were already part of locals’ concerns.

The deadly collapse also became a battleground for political parties, all converging on turning Atlantia — and therefore the Benetton family — into the scapegoat responsible for the tragedy.

Toscani in 2018 stood behind the Benettons during an interview with daily Corriere della Sera, denouncing a slanderous campaign against them.

“They are very serious people. They have always been serious and done things [the best way] and I can tell this as I worked with them,” he said. “What’s all this meanness, this rancor?” he continued, defining Italians as “frustrated,” “unhappy” and “nasty” people.

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