Following the recent example of Giorgio Armani, an Italian designer who is 82 years old like him, Leonardo Del Vecchio has decided to create his own foundation, with an initial endowment of €300 million. Del Vecchio has changed the by-laws of his family's Luxembourg-based holding company, Delfin, giving its management a lifetime permission to grant up to 5 percent of its dividends to the foundation without the consent of its shareholders.

Delfin is partly owned by Del Vecchio's six children, each of whom owns 12.5 percent of the shares, with Del Vecchio holding the remaining 25 percent and all the voting rights. Delfin has a 62.45 percent stake in Luxottica, and it will be the largest shareholder in Essilor-Luxottica, once the merger of the two giants is completed, with a stake of 38 percent, currently estimated to be worth about €19 billion. Delfin also owns minority interests in an Italian bank, UniCredit, and in Italy's largest insurance company, Assicurazioni Generali, among other investments.

Del Vecchio has gone through a number of transactions before establishing his foundation. Delfin has created a new 100 percent subsidiary, called Delfin H, which will be transformed into the future Fondazione Del Vecchio. It is headed up by Del Vecchio's close aid, Francesco Milleri, who has just been made chief executive of Luxotttica (see the related article in this issue).

In an interview with an Italian daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera, Del Vecchio said that the foundation would only support and foster not-for-profit initiatives “to give back to the country all the good and beautiful things it gave to me.” He stressed that the actions of the foundation will only concern Delfin and that Luxottica “won't be involved in any way.”

Delfin H's first action was an investment in a Milanese cancer hospital and research institute, Istituto Europeo di Oncologia (IEO), which also owns a heart treatment center in Milan, Centro Cardiologico Monzino. Del Vecchio said he has invested in IEO to “reinforce the independence of scientific research and instill an entrepreneurial spirit in its management.”

In this transaction, Delfin H bought a 5.1 percent stake in IEO from a publishing group, RCS MediaGroup, and obtained another 13.4 percent from UniCredit. The bank donated one percent of its shares in IEO to Delfin H and gave it an additional stake of 12.4 percent in exchange of shares. UniCredit now owns 16.5 percent of Delfin H, according to the daily Il Sole 24 Ore. Delfin H has become the second-largest shareholder in the cancer institute after Mediobanca. Del Vecchio has joined IEO's board, indicating that he may buy more shares in the institute in the future through the foundation. The board has decided to limit the holdings of any shareholders at 30 percent.