MILAN — Gilberto Benetton, a cofounder of the Benetton fashion group, died on Monday at his home in Treviso, Italy, at 77. He is survived by his wife, Lalla; his daughters, Barbara and Sabrina, and his son-in-law, Ermanno.
The news comes three months after the death of his brother Carlo in July. With Carlo and their siblings Luciano and Giuliana, the Benettons founded the namesake group in 1965.
Born in Treviso in 1941, Benetton — in particular — masterminded the diversification of the family in retail, infrastructure and real estate over the past 25 years.
He was vice president of Edizione Srl, the parent company of the Benetton fashion group, which is one of the largest Italian holding companies with revenues totaling 11.7 billion euros and equity investments in sectors including infrastructure and mobility services, highway and commercial catering, food and beverages, textiles and clothing, real estate and agriculture, and stakes in giant insurance company Assicurazioni Generali SpA and global merchant bank Mediobanca SpA, among others. He was president of Edizione Property, president of Autogrill and a member of the board of the Atlantia Group and of investment bank Mediobanca.
Through Sintonia SpA, the Benettons operate in the sector of infrastructure and mobility with shares in Atlantia, which include prime Italian highway player Autostrade per l’Italia; Abertis; Aeroporti di Roma (Rome airports); Eurotunnel, and Cellnex. Real estate Edizione Property comprises a portfolio of 112 properties.
Benetton was also a passionate sportsman, and promoted several group activities in sports such as professional rugby.
Through Fondazione Benetton, he created La Ghirada, a sports center in Treviso open to the city since 1982. Since 1988, he was president of Verde Sport, which manages La Ghirada, and of the prestigious Asolo Golf Club.
It is understood that, in addition to the death of his brother Carlo, Benetton was deeply affected by the collapse on Aug. 14 of a section of Treviso’s Morandi bridge, which led to 44 deaths and hundreds of evacuees. 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.
The Benettons’ involvement and the controversies surrounding the structure, in which condition and high maintenance costs were already part of locals’ concerns, made the Benetton family a target and a scapegoat responsible for the tragedy.
In an interview with local daily Corriere della Sera in September, Benetton said the collapse had been “an indelible admonishment.”
Among the defenders was Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani, who collaborated on the namesake fashion brand’s most famous ads since the Eighties. Toscani stood behind the Benettons during an interview with 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.
Luciano Benetton, 83, has been back in the news after once again taking the reins of the family-owned company as executive president in January, with the aim of turning around the fashion group after years of declining sales. He had retired in April 2012, passing the baton to his son Alessandro, who then exited the company after two years.