Luxottica has announced the departure of Massimo Vian, chief executive of the group in charge of product and operations, ahead of the company's planned merger with Essilor International. At the same time, the group has announced the nomination of a new chief executive, Francesco Milleri, a 58-year-old industry consultant who has had for many years the full confidence of Leonardo Del Vecchio, founder, major shareholder and executive chairman of the group.

Putting an end to a joint CEO model that didn't work out, Milleri has been appointed as sole chief executive of the group, while retaining his position of deputy chairman. The group has also promoted its chief financial officer, Stefano Grassi, to the board of directors.

Vian worked for 13 years with Luxottica. He was appointed joint CEO in January 2016 along with Adil Mehboob-Khan, who was placed in charge of overseeing markets but left the company a year later. Giorgio Striano, chief operating officer of the group, is expected to ensure continuity on the industrial side of the business after Vian's departure. He had been in charge of manufacturing since March 2015 and was promoted to CFO in October 2016.

Milleri becomes Luxottica's fifth CEO in three years following the departure of Andrea Guerra in September 2014 and of his successor, Enrico Cavatorta, a few weeks later. Introducing the joint CEO model, Cavatorta had been named joint CEO in charge of corporate functions and interim CEO for markets on Sept. 1, 2014, but he announced his departure a few weeks later, on Oct. 12, citing divergences on the company's governance. On Oct. 13, Del Vecchio, took on all executive powers on a temporary basis.

Back then, media reports said that Cavatorta had resigned because of Del Vecchio's plans to impose Milleri, then a consultant and family friend, as deputy chairman. Milleri was eventually named deputy chairman in April 2016 after having been appointed to the board a couple of months earlier. He was also made chairman of Luxottica's Italian retail unit, Salmoiraghi & Viganò.

Like Guerra and Cavatorta, Vian will leave with a big golden handshake, amounting to €6.3 million, on top of his ordinary severance pay. He will not be allowed to solicit Luxottica staff or work for the competition for 24 months. Vian's employment terminates on Dec. 31, 2017, three months before the end of his mandate.

In an interview with Corriere della Sera published on Dec. 16, 2017, Del Vecchio said that Luxottica's governance changes “very little” with the new appointment. “The concept has always been clear from the start, we knew what the company needed,” he told the newspaper. He said that the company has to regain speed, entrepreneurial spirit and coherence and that had to be done gradually.

Del Vecchio told the newspaper that Milleri has shared with him “every important decision in all areas and all markets over the past three years. While Vian was in charge of “operations, I was busy adjusting, refounding, improving Luxottica, adapting it to our times. I did it thanks to Francesco Milleri, to his digital vision of the company and of markets. Not only, it was Milleri who reached the deal with Essilor in only 15 days,” he added.

Del Vecchio, 82, said he wanted to make it clear that Milleri was Luxottica's interlocutor with Essilor. “Considering my age, I included in the contract signed with Essilor that Francesco Milleri would take my place if I were to pass away,” he added.