Italy’s billionaires thrive on style and chocolate

Fashion designer Miuccia Prada and chocolatier Michele Ferrero have been named among the world's richest people in the annual global ranking of billionaires by the business magazine, Forbes.

Italy's billionaires thrive on style and chocolate
Giorgio Armani has a $9.9 billion fortune. Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images North America/AFP

Michele Ferrero and his kin are the richest family in Italy, with a $26.5 billion (€19.25 billion) fortune built on sugary products including Nutella, Kinder and Ferrero Rocher chocolates, according to the list published on Tuesday.

They are followed Leonardo Del Vecchio, who in 38th place is Italy’s wealthiest fashion mogul with assets worth $19.2 billion.

While Luxottica, the company Del Vecchio founded in 1961, may not be a household name, his sunglasses certainly are. Del Vecchio’s shades are sold the world over, including Oakley and Ray-Ban, while Luxottica also produces sunglasses for nearly every fashion house going, from Burberry to Versace.

Designers Miuccia Prada and Giorgio Armani, who came 102nd and 129th in the ranking respectively, are also further proof that style pays.

Working in the family fashion business has proved lucrative for Prada, who is worth $11.1 billion, while Armani boasts a $9.9 billion fortune.

Having founded his fashion house in 1975, Armani has since expanded his empire and has a 4.9 percent stake in Del Vecchio’s Luxottica. According to Forbes, he is also the proud owner of a $50-million yacht and ten houses.

Prada’s husband Patrizio Bertelli also makes an appearance on the billionaires’ list: with $6 billion to his name, he is the world’s 234th richest person.

While luxury goods continue to bankroll the richest Italians, both the Ferrero family and a second sweet-toothed billionaire prove that cheap products can be profitable. Augusto and Giorgio Perfetti share $7.2 billion between them, ranking 186th, owing to their family’s Perfetti Van Melle business built on the sale of chewing gum.

Also making an appearance is Stefano Pessina, described by Forbes as a Monaco resident who turned his family’s pharmaceutical company around, which has since merged to form Alliance Boots, netting $10.4 billion in the process.

The only Italian industrialists to make it into the top 500 are Paolo and Gianfelice Mario Rocca, who made their shared $6.3 billion fortune after their grandfather founded the Argentine-Italian steel company Techint Group.

Despite enduring a fairly dire 2013 with a string of court cases and being thrown out of Italian parliament, Silvio Berlusconi can at least retain his title as one of the world’s wealthiest.

The former prime minister and his family have $9 billion to their name, spread out across numerous business interests including broadcaster Mediaset and AC Milan football club.

The “poorest” of the Italian billionaires is Rosa Anna Magno Garavoglia, with a meagre $3.5 billion owing to the Italian drinks company Campari.

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Italian fashion king Armani goes fur free

Say goodbye to Mink coats: Italian fashion king Giorgio Armani said on Tuesday he would no longer use any real animal fur in his collections, saying there was no excuse to indulge in such "cruel practices".

Italian fashion king Armani goes fur free
Armani will stop using animal fur and use fake pelts instead. Photo: Patrick Herzog/AFP

The designer and dresser of stars such as singer Beyonce and actress Cate Blanchett said fur would be out from his autumn – winter 2016/2017 collection onwards, with artificial pelts taking its place.
“I am pleased to announce that the Armani Group has made a firm commitment to abolish the use of animal fur in its collections,” the 81-year old, credited with pioneering red-carpet fashion, said in a statement.
“Technological progress made over the years allows us to have valid alternatives at our disposition that render the use of cruel practices unnecessary,” he added.
 According to the Free Fur Alliance, a coalition of 40 organizations for the protection of animals, most fur sold globally is from farmed animals, such as minks, foxes, rabbits and chinchillas – killed with methods ranging from gassing to neck-breaking and anal electrocution, in order to preserve the fur in a good condition.
“With this decision, the luxury brand is responding to growing consumer demand for ethical and sustainable fashion”, the alliance said. It added that worldwide more than 80 million mink and foxes were killed in 2014, only for fashion.  

Humane Society International said Armani going fur free was “probably the most powerful message yet that killing animals for fur is never fashionable”.