In a country that is iconic for its exuberant luxury, including high-end Milanese fashion, traditional cuisine and Tuscan wine, it’s perhaps not surprising that Italy is also home to some of the world’s wealthiest people.
Many of the names on this list have had to work hard to reach the top, however. As you will see, these billionaires and business tycoons come from all types of backgrounds, having found success in industries as diverse as confectionery, eyewear and designer goods.
So, if you’re wondering who has amassed the biggest fortune, then read on – here are the 10 richest Italians, according to Forbes.
10. Luca Garavoglia
Estimated net worth: $3.5 billion (£2.7 billion)
Educated at the renowned Bocconi University business school in Milan, Luca Garavoglia has served as the chairman of the Campari Group since 1994, taking responsibility for the beverage giant’s aggressive acquisition and growth strategies of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Under his watch, Campari has gone from selling niche products to acquiring some of the world’s most recognisable spirits, including Cinzano and Ouzo 12.
Following the death of his mother Rosa in 2016, it was announced that Garavoglia would inherit her shares, making him the controlling stakeholder of the Campari business.
9. Giuseppe De'Longhi
Estimated net worth: $3.8 billion (£2.9 billion)
Caffeine aficionados will likely be familiar with De’Longhi coffee, of which Giuseppe – president of parent company De’Longhi SpA – is in charge.
Although the company, founded in Treviso in 1902, originally made its fortune producing heaters, air conditioners and home appliances, it is in 1990 that they became a household name, producing the high-quality coffee machines with which the family name is now synonymous.
Under Giuseppe’s charge, the company has struck successful distribution and manufacturing deals with other market giants, such as Kenwood and Braun, while the family line looks safe; son Fabio is the company’s current CEO.
8. Paolo and Gianfelice Rocca
Brembo / Bloomberg
Estimated net worth: $4.1 billion (£3.2 billion)
The grandsons of industrialist Agostino Rocca, Paolo and Gianfelice Rocca are the current stewards of the Techint Group, a multinational conglomerate with interests in construction, engineering, healthcare, energy and steel production.
Paolo – the younger of the two brothers – obtained his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1985, and currently serves as the company’s CEO, while Gianfelice, who also attended HBS, serves as the group’s chairman.
Both brothers are active in industry organisations and social groups, although Paolo, who lives in Buenos Aires, was indicted by an Argentinian court in November 2018 and forbidden from leaving the country as part of an investigation into a bribery scandal.
7. Silvio Berlusconi
Estimated net worth: $6.3 billion (£4.8 billion)
One of the most controversial and enigmatic characters in Italian and European politics, Silvio Berlusconi made his fortune through his media conglomerate Fininvest, before serving the first of his three terms as Prime Minister of Italy in 1994. Since then, Il Cavaliere (The Knight) has been embroiled in numerous blackmail, corruption and tax fraud scandals, culminating in a (later rescinded) court order banning him from running for political office in 2014.
Despite ongoing accusations of a conflict of interest between his media and political careers, Berlusconi – in conjunction with his family – still retains control over his vast media empire. In 2017, meanwhile, he sold the AC Milan football club (of which he had retained ownership for 31 years) to a Chinese investment group for €740 million ($835.5 million/£640.2 million).
6. Augusto and Giorgio Perfetti
Estimated net worth: $6.5 billion (£5 billion)
As the co-owners of confectionary giants Perfetti Van Melle, brothers Augusto and Giorgio Perfetti are responsible for providing the world with a number of renowned products; Mentos, Fruittella and Chupa Chups (acquired in 2006) are all now produced under the Perfetti Van Melle umbrella.
Following the acquisition of Perfetti Van Melle’s shareholdings in 2001, the company has established itself as the third largest confectionery manufacturer in the world after Mondelez International and Mars, Inc. The two brothers – who are both notoriously media-shy – now live in Switzerland and maintain no involvement in the day-to-day running of the business.
5. Massimiliana Landini Aleotti
Estimated net worth: $7.4 billion (£5.7 billion)
As the widow of pharmaceuticals magnate Alberto Aleotti, Massimiliana – along with their children Lucia and Alberto Giovanni – inherited control of the influential Menarini Group in 2014, with Massimiliana retaining overall ownership.
The family has not been without controversy, though. Lucia and Alberto Giovanni (installed as chairman and vice-chairman, respectively) were convicted of tax fraud and money laundering in 2016, receiving prison sentences of 10 and 7.5 years. However, in December 2018, the Court of Appeal in Florence overturned this verdict, clearing the siblings of any wrongdoing.
4. Giorgio Armani
Estimated net worth: $8.5 billion (£6.5 billion)
Although his name is now a global byword for luxury and exuberance, Giorgio Armani’s early years couldn’t have been more different. Born into a working-class Piacentini family, the fashion mogul spent time at medical school as well as in the army, before finding work as a window dresser in a Milan department store in 1957.
After building his reputation as a designer in the 1960s and 1970s, Armani finally founded his legendary eponymous label in 1975, turning it into a global powerhouse that now features over 60 stores in 37 countries. Since 2005, the brand has also diversified into luxury hotels, including a flagship hotel at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Despite turning 84 last year, the King of Fashion shows no signs of slowing down, either. He is still responsible for the day-to-day running of the company and is yet to name a successor for when he eventually steps down.
3. Stefano Pessina
Estimated net worth: $12.4 billion (£9.5 billion)
After taking over the family wholesaling business in Naples in 1977, Stefano Pessina – a nuclear engineering graduate from the prestigious Politecnico di Milano – decided to transform his company into Alliance Santé, guiding it through a series of large-scale mergers and acquisitions in the last 40 years to eventually create Walgreens Boots Alliance.
As a result, the company – of which Pessina remains CEO and vice chairman – attracted a revenue of over $131 billion (£100.8 billion) in 2018 (subsequently replacing General Electric on the Dow Jones Index), while the pharmaceutical and retail giant currently employs over 400,000 employees worldwide.
Now 77, Pessina resides in Monte Carlo with his partner Ornella Barra, the co-COO of Walgreens Boots Alliance.
2. Leonardo Del Vecchio
Estimated net worth: $19.8 billion (£15.2 billion)
If most of the billionaires on this list were given a rather large helping hand by their parents, then consider the case of Leonardo Del Vecchio. Born into poverty in 1935, the eyewear magnate was sent to an orphanage at age 7, before apprenticing at a parts factory at age 14 to make ends meet.
Originally set on attending design school, Del Vecchio instead utilised his metalworking skills to start a spectacle-making business, creating the now-legendary Luxottica in 1967. Since then, the company has acquired some of the biggest eyewear companies in the world, including Ray-Ban, Oakley and Sunglass Hut, while they continue to make frames for designer brands such as Armani, Bulgari and Chanel.
Now 83 and currently living in Milan, Del Vecchio still serves as the executive chairman of Luxottica, while his son Claudio is CEO of the prestigious Brooks Brothers clothier.
1. Giovanni Ferrero
Estimated net worth: $22.4 billion (£17.2 billion)
Built entirely upon a secret cocoa-hazelnut recipe called Pasta Gianduja – or, as the rest of the world now calls it, Nutella – the Ferrero empire is a global multibillion-dollar venture that is currently headed up by Giovanni Ferrero, the grandson of company founder Pietro.
Notoriously weary of industrial espionage (media are banned from entering the company’s production plants), Ferrero also produces the Kinder range of products as well as Tic Tac mints. Under Giovanni’s astute leadership, the company has since added several Nestlé brands, as well as numerous confectionery brands in the North American market, to this impressive portfolio.
Ferrero himself is married with two children and currently resides in Brussels, Belgium. Since 2016, the 54-year-old has relinquished his position as Ferrero’s CEO and now oversees the company’s long-term strategy as executive chairman.
Although many of these Italian billionaires have had a helping hand in terms of inheritance, their business intuition, shrewd decision-making and entrepreneurial prowess has ensured that they remain firmly among the world’s richest.
Indeed, the combined total of these 10 fortunes alone is $94.7 billion (£72.9 billion)!
What would you do with that kind of money? Let us know in the comments below!
Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com.
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 26 January 2015.