Gilberto Benetton

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Gilberto Benetton
Born(1941-06-19)19 June 1941
Treviso, Italy
Died22 October 2018(2018-10-22) (aged 77)
Treviso, Italy
ResidenceTreviso, Italy
OccupationCo-founder of Benetton Group
Net worthUS$2.7 billion (October 2018)[1]
Spouse(s)Lalla Benetton
Children2 daughters
RelativesLuciano Benetton (brother)
Carlo Benetton (brother)
Giuliana Benetton (sister)
Alessandro Benetton (nephew)

Gilberto Benetton (19 June 1941 – 22 October 2018)[2] was an Italian billionaire businessman, one of Europe's most influential industrialists.[3] He was a co-founder of Benetton Group, the Italian fashion brand which he started and ran with his three siblings.[3] In October 2018, Forbes estimated the net worth of Gilberto Benetton, and each of his siblings, at US$2.7 billion.[1] In June 2018, the conglomerate he created had assets of Euro 12.1 billion.[3][4]


Benetton left school at 14, after his father died, and worked at local firms until starting United Colours of Benetton with his siblings in 1965.[3] The company initially made clothing on a homemade production line in Ponzano Veneto near Venice.[5] The company became well known for its brightly colored clothing.[6] By the 1980s the company was distributing in 100 countries, and the Benetton family had become billionaires.[3]

After his family company's success in the 1980s, Benetton diversified into infrastructure, including roads, telecom, catering, and agriculture.[7][3] He acquired Autogrill, a motorway food service company.[3] Then Atlantia, the owner of Autostrade with contracts in road and airport construction.[3] He also acquired stakes in Telecom Italia, Mediobanca, Pirelli, and RCS Mediagroup.[3] In 2018 he organized the acquisition of Abertis, a motorway group from Spanish building firm ACS.[8]

The Benetton Group was controversial for their ads, which often went against social norms of the time.[5][9] The ads challenged social taboos such as sexuality, war, racism, and AIDS.[10] In 2011 the company pulled an ad featuring a photoshopped image of the Pope kissing a prominent Islamic cleric after the Vatican complained.[11][12] The company became one of the world's largest retail groups, with 5000 stores in 120 companies.[10] However, since 2000 it has seen dwindling sales.[7]

Originally, each of the four Benetton siblings had an equal quarter share of Edizione.[13] Benetton was the former chairman of Edizione, the family's holding company which controls Atlantia.[9] He was vice-president of Edizione when he died.[5] He was the former chairman of one of their key investments, Autogrill highway and airport restaurants,[14] and at his death he was vice-president.[5]

He was the only family member on the Atlantia board, and faced a crisis in August 2018 when the Genoa bridge collapse killed 43 people, a unit of Atlantia was the bridge operator.[15] There were claims the weakness in the bridge was known in advance, and that the disaster was avoidable.[16] The holding company Edizione lost 2 billion Euros in value after the incident.[17][13]

In the years leading up to his death, Benetton had brought non-family member Marco Patuano in to run the Edizione company he had previously been head of, and indicated it should operate like a sovereign wealth fund.[18] It is expected that he will be succeeded in his board role by Gilberto's daughter Sabrina.[13][17]

Personal life[edit]

Benetton was married to Lalla, they had two daughters, Barbara and Sabrina, and lived in Treviso, Italy.[1][14]

He was inducted into the Italian Basketball Hall of Fame, in 2012.[19] This was due to his contribution to the sport of Italian basketball, while he was the owner of the Italian professional basketball club Treviso Basket.[19] He started sponsoring the club in 1978,[20] bought the club in 1980,[19] and had financed the club from his business career.[3] He also sponsored rugby and volleyball clubs in Treviso.[20] The Benetton's sold out of the basketball and volleyball clubs in 2012.[20] The Benetton family is now only focused on the rugby club.[13]

Italian newspapers had reported that Benetton's health started to decline after the Genoa bridge disaster and the death of his brother Carlo in July.[3] He died aged 77, on 22 October 2018, at his home in Treviso, Italy.[14][21] A statement from the Benetton Group said "His wife Lalla, daughters Barbara and Sabrina and son-in-law Ermanno were with him in his final moments".[7]


  1. ^ a b c "Forbes profile: Gilberto Benetton". Forbes. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  2. ^ Pianigiani, Gaia (26 October 2018). "Gilberto Benetton, 77, Dies; Expanded Family Clothing Company". The New York Times. Rome. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Sanderson, Rachel (23 October 2018). "Gilberto Benetton, Italian industrialist, 1941-2018". Financial Times. Milan. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  4. ^ Ozimek, Tom (23 October 2018). "Gilberto Benetton, Co-founder of Iconic Fashion Brand Dies". The Epoch Times. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d France-Presse, Agence (23 October 2018). "Gilberto Benetton, fashion brand co-founder, dies aged 77". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  6. ^ Sanderson, Rachel (22 September 2018). "Can Benetton's colourful past help secure its future?". Financial Times. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  7. ^ a b c "Another Benetton co-founder is dead, three months after brother". South China Morning Post. Agence France-Presse. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  8. ^ Robin Pomeroy; Riccardo Bastianello; Paola Arosio; Stefano Bernabei; Stephen Jewkes; Adrian Croft. "Benetton founder, who took family business beyond sweaters, dies at 77". Milan: Reuters. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Co-founder of Benetton fashion chain dies". BBC News. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  10. ^ a b Regan, Helen (23 October 2018). "Gilberto Benetton, co-founder of fashion giant Benetton, dies age 77". CNN. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Benetton pulls pope-imam kiss ad". BBC News. 16 November 2011. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  12. ^ Butt, Riazat (17 November 2011). "Benetton tears down pope-kissing ads after Vatican legal threat". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d "Benetton death opens succession dilemma at billionaire family". Gulf-Times. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  14. ^ a b c "Gilberto Benetton, co-founder of fashion brand, dies aged 77". ITV News. 22 October 2018. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Gilberto Benetton, United Colors of Benetton co-founder, dies aged 77". The Independent. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  16. ^ "Designer of Genoa bridge warned of corrosion risk 39 years before deadly collapse". The Independent. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  17. ^ a b Ebhardt, Tommaso (23 October 2018). "Benetton Death Opens Succession Dilemma at Billionaire Family". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  18. ^ Lepido, Daniele; Ebhardt, Tommaso (20 August 2018). "Italians Are Outraged at Benetton Family After Genoa Bridge Disaster". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  19. ^ a b c "Addio a Gilberto Benetton, protagonista nel mondo dello sport con basket, rugby e motori". Eurosport. 22 October 2018. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  20. ^ a b c "Gilberto Benetton morto a 77 anni dopo una lunga malattia". La Gazzetta dello Sport - Tutto il rosa della vita (in Italian). 22 October 2018. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  21. ^ "Gilberto Benetton obituary". The Times. 24 October 2018. Retrieved 26 October 2018.