Luciano Benetton

SPEAKING UP: Luciano Benetton has opened up about his family business’ alleged involvement in an environmental disaster, which hit the city of Genoa in August last year.

In an interview with Italy’s newspaper La Repubblica on Sunday, the entrepreneur, 84, said “the ethic of responsibility, modernity and respect for the rules are not discretionary, instead they are the condition for survival for any entrepreneur. The bridges’ maintenance and the investments on the highways are mandatory by context rather than by a free intellectual choice.”

As reported, in August, a section of the city’s Morandi bridge collapsed, leading to 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 holding company Edizione controls 30.25 percent of Atlantia.

“Believe me, anyone who knows us a bit, has never doubted us, everybody knows we’re not part of that kind of capitalism [stuck] between politics and dishonesty,” Benetton is quoted as saying, adding he has long questioned the conduct of Autostrade Per l’Italia. “I’m sure about the good faith of Autostrade’s managers. No businessman can even imagine saving on the maintenance of bridges and highways. It would not only be an irresponsible crime, but also a stupid error,” he explained.

Facing allegations about the tactless choice to hold a family reunion the day following the bridge collapse, which one journalist dubbed as “a party in Cortina,” Benetton observed: “Despite not being a party, that family reunion should have been canceled. But because it was not a party, nobody thought about it,” he explained adding, “That day we were, as much as everybody, more than anybody, shocked witnesses of a terrible catastrophe.”

Benetton also condemned the Italian government’s “unfair accusations” at that time, which eventually led Atlantia — and therefore the Benetton family — to be turned into the scapegoat responsible for the tragedy, as reported.

In addition, the entrepreneur, who last year returned to the Benetton company as executive president, said he expected the retailer to return to profitability in 2020, having reduced losses by 40 percent to less than 100 million euros.

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