September 2, 2014 / 7:18 AM / 4 years ago

Luxottica founder says he and ex-CEO clashed over running of company

MILAN (Reuters) - Leonardo Del Vecchio, the 79-year-old founder of Italian eyewear maker Luxottica, decided to replace long-term CEO Andrea Guerra after Guerra rejected his plans to take a more active role in the firm to prepare for a handover to his offspring.

In an interview with Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore published on Tuesday, Del Vecchio said Guerra, who left on Monday after a 10-year tenure, had opposed a radical overhaul of the management structure aimed at better preparing the company for the future.

“I took the decision more or less around the end of 2013 and the beginning of this year, when he (Guerra) rejected my plan to take back a more active role in the running of the company,” Del Vecchio was quoted as saying.

Del Vecchio, who founded Luxottica (LUX.MI) in 1961 and owns 61 percent of the world’s biggest eyewear maker by revenue, said the complex new management structure - which will see the CEO functions split among three managers - was something he drew up as a way to ensure a smooth transition to his offspring.

“When approaching 80, one must think about one’s children: you can put in writing that succession plans had a determining role in the decision,” Del Vecchio said.

Luxottica, maker of Ray-Ban sunglasses, named 53-year-old Enrico Cavatorta, current chief financial officer and general manager, as co-chief executive. It is recruiting externally for another co-CEO whom Cavatorta told a press conference on Monday could be in place by the end of the year.

The co-CEOs will be part of an executive committee that will be led by the chairman and include, at least initially, a senior executive in charge mainly of production.

In the interview, Del Vecchio dismissed suggestions that he and Guerra had clashed over strategy, including a decision earlier this year to agree to develop and manufacture Google’s (GOOGL.O) high-tech Glass spectacles.

When rumors about Guerra’s departure initially surfaced two weeks ago, the company said the two had been debating strategy for some time.

Del Vecchio added Guerra could do well at a global luxury goods company such as privately-owned Armani.

Guerra, one of Italy’s most-respected managers who is taking home 45 million euros ($59 million) worth of severance pay and stock options, has so far kept mum on his plans for the future.

Italian media have speculated that Guerra, who is close to Matteo Renzi’s center-left Democratic Party, may join the political arena. His name had been in the rounds as a possible minister candidate when Renzi formed his government in February.

“He certainly does not have the qualities of a politician,” Del Vecchio said in a separate interview with Corriere della Sera also on Tuesday.

Luxottica shares were down 1.86 percent by 0303 ET.

(1 US dollar = 0.7618 euro)

Reporting by Lisa Jucca; Editing by Mark Potter

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