MILAN — Luciano Benetton said Thursday he would step back from the daily management of Benetton Group, marking a dramatic shift in strategy for the firm.

This story first appeared in the March 7, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Benetton said in a statement that he will remain group chairman, but that this will be an “honorary position.” He said his family will also be on the sidelines, and that he plans to strengthen the management structure of the company with the addition of new managers from outside. “Management must have total responsibility,” said Benetton. “We [the family] will be shareholders.”

An industry source said that Benetton “had no alternatives. He has no heir to succeed him, he is no longer the sole leader, and the family, although large, is all involved with other ventures and businesses.’’

On Thursday, Benetton also said Luigi de Puppi will resign his post as managing director in mid-May, following the group’s board meeting. Benetton said a new managing director will be appointed. That person has already been selected, but was not revealed, since “this manager is currently finalizing other important operations,” according to the statement.

De Puppi joined the company two years ago to restructure the money-losing sporting goods assets, Benetton Sportsystem, which included the Prince, Nordica, Killer Loop and Rollerblade brands. Benetton said de Puppi will resign since his “goals were reached.”

As reported, this year Benetton sold Nordica to Italy’s Tecnica, owner of ski labels Volkl and Marker as well as outerwear brands Dolomite and Think Pink. Benetton said Thursday it had reached a preliminary agreement with Prime Newco, which is part of Tecnica, to sell Rollerblade for $21.9 million, plus 1.5 percent of the brand’s sales for the next five years, or a total of no less than $5.4 million as a compensation for the transfer of know-how. Benetton, which is streamlining its assets and is focused on building its core clothing business, added that it is in talks to sell its tennis brand Prince. Dollar figures were converted from the euro at current exchange rates.

Benetton was founded in 1965 by Luciano Benetton and his siblings Gilberto, Carlo and Giuliana. The family also owns a financial company, Edizione Holding, which includes international companies in food distribution, highway and commercial catering, real estate and agriculture. Luciano Benetton’s son, Alessandro, is managing director of 21, Investimenti Group, part of Edizione Holding, which operates diversified investments in industrial sectors.

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