Luciano Benetton, 82, back in charge of family fashion group

On Thursday, Luciano Benetton, 82, one of the founders of Italian apparel group Benetton, announced his return at the head of the corporation, in an attempt to steer it on the road to recovery.
"In 2008, when I left the corporation, its assets were worth €155 million, and now I find it with a loss of €81 million in 2016. And it will be worse this year. It's unbearably painful for me," said Luciano Benetton in a long interview, talking to Italian daily paper La Repubblica.

Luciano Benetton (right) and his son Alessandro, in April 2012 - AFP/Archives / Olivier MORIN

"This is why I'm entering the fray again, like before, with my sister Giuliana who, at the age of 80, has begun knitting sweaters again. And with photographer Oliviero Toscani, to start talking about integration once more," he said, referring to Benetton's success with its 'United Colors' slogan in the past.
"While others imitated us, 'United Colors' lost its brightness. It's our own fault. Our stores where bright with lights, now they've become sombre and sad, and we closed down [our operations] in South America and the USA," he lamented.
According to Luciano Benetton, "the worst sin" was that "[we] stopped making sweaters, it's as though we took the water away from an aqueduct."
"[The group's] management has been questionable, though not in a criminal sense. Its financial statement is in the red, and incomprehensible mistakes have been made. As though those who were in charge of the group did it on purpose," he lashed out.

Oliviero Toscani and Luciano Benetton, in a picture taken last August - Instagram

He emphasised that, in 2008, it seemed right to him “to hand over the reins, when things were going well. I wanted [the group] to experiment with new strategies and to release a fresh new energy." The running of the business was first put in the hands of his son Alessandro, then of managers from outside the family.
"I don't feel guilty, just angry. And I think that the healthy part of the group feels like me, angry," he added. "We are in the process of creating new products, we're making over our stores, looking at colours and reorganising ourselves," said Luciano Benetton.

One of the first visuals of the new Oliviero Toscani campaign - Benetton

The number of Benetton employees has fallen from 9,766 in 2008 to 7,328 today. In reply to La Repubblica's question if jobs were at risk, Luciano Benetton said: "We will give everyone a chance, but we must lighten up the corporation."

Translated by Nicola Mira

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