Italy's coffee king Lavazza dies at 78

Thu Feb 18, 2010 6:41am EST
 
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ROME (Reuters Life!) - Emilio Lavazza, who oversaw the expansion of the namesake Italian coffee roaster into a global coffee brand that operates in more than 90 countries, has died at the age of 78, the company said.

Affectionately called "Signor Emilio" by employees, Lavazza in 1955 entered the family business founded by his grandfather and took over as chairman in 1979, a role he held until 2008.

He died on Tuesday night, the company said.

A firm believer in the power of television, Lavazza invested heavily in advertising and pushed the Turin-based company into foreign markets as the standard-bearer for frothy Italian espresso.

Lavazza has a 48 percent share of the Italian retail coffee market and operations in countries ranging from Brazil to India. The world's sixth-biggest coffee roaster by purchases of green coffee, it forecast sales of more than 1.1 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in 2009.

(Reporting by Deepa Babington; Editing by Steve Addison)