Luciano Benetton Accuses CEO of ‘Wrecking the Group’s Accounts’ and Announces Resignation

Luciano Benetton
Luciano Benetton

Milan – Luciano Benetton, the 89-year-old co-founder of the renowned textile empire, announced on Saturday his intention to step down as chairman of the family-owned Italian group. This decision follows his accusation against the chief executive, Massimo Renon, of mismanaging the company’s finances.

“I trusted him and I was wrong. I was betrayed in the truest sense of the word. A few months ago, I realised that something was wrong and that the image of the Group that management was presenting to us at board meetings was not real,” Benetton told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

“Before I leave the Group, I intend to explain what happened with the transparency that characterises me, without shirking my responsibility,” he added.

Luciano Benetton claims that Renon left “a 100 million euro hole” after four years at the helm of the iconic clothing brand. During a board of directors meeting, “the bombshell burst” when “a dramatic budget hole suddenly appeared, a shock that left us speechless,” commented Benetton.

“We’ve lost four years and that makes things more difficult because we don’t have a magic wand,” he pointed out. “Unfortunately, sacrifices will have to be made,” he warned.

Despite these challenges, Benetton expressed determination to revive the brand’s former glory. “We will do our utmost to regain the energy of better times and breathe new life into this brand, which means so much to our family and bears our name,” he said.

In January 2022, Alessandro Benetton, 60, son of Luciano Benetton, took over the reins of the family holding company Edizione. The family’s reputation had suffered after the collapse of the Genoa bridge, managed by one of its subsidiaries, which killed 43 people and highlighted the poor state of Italy’s transport infrastructure.

To mitigate the negative impact, the Benetton family decided in March 2023 to rename its Italian motorway and airport group Atlantia to Mundys.

Founded in 1965 in north-east Italy by four brothers and a sister, Benetton initially gained fame for its soft woollen jumpers available in a wide range of colors. The “United Colors of Benetton” brand saw global success from 1982 to 2000, largely due to the striking advertising campaigns of photographer Oliviero Toscani. However, the brand faced challenges in the years that followed.

Luciano Benetton resumed his role as CEO in 2018 in an effort to turn the company around, but the appointment of Massimo Renon as CEO did not yield the desired results.

“I left the company in 2012 when it was in good health, with sales of €2 billion and profits,” recalls Benetton. Now, with the recent financial turmoil, he steps down, leaving behind a company in need of significant recovery efforts.