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MILAN, July 21 (Reuters) - Italy’s Benetton family reappointed trusted advisor Gianni Mion as chairman of its holding company Edizione for a three-year term on Tuesday and said it would seek to appoint a chief executive to map out a new strategy for the group.
The moves come as the family grapples with the fallout of the 2018 Atlantia bridge disaster, which led to the government moving to take control of Atlantia’s motorways unit Autostrade per l’Italia earlier this month.
The future direction of Edizione, an 18 billion-euro holding company with interests ranging from motorways to clothing stores, has been in doubt since the collapse of a bridge run by Autostrade in which 43 people died.
The new management team will have to oversee the realignment of Atlantia and help develop a new medium-term strategy for Edizione, whose other holdings include restaurant chain Autogrill and telecom masts group Cellnex.
The reappointment of the 76-year-old Mion and a statement that infrastructure arm Atlantia would “maintain its central position in the future strategy of Edizione” suggested that no radical change of direction was likely for the moment.
“The confirmation of Mion for three years is a good signal of continuity, but one has to see who will be appointed CEO,” said Andrea Colli, Professor of business history at Bocconi University, who wrote a book on Edizione.
With the lucrative Autostrade concession gone, new sources of growth and dividends will be needed to service more than 30 billion euros of debt, the lion’s share stemming from Atlantia’s acquisition of Spanish road operator Abertis in 2018.
The 85-year-old Luciano Benetton, one of two surviving members of the founder generation still best known for the clothing chain that made their name in the 1980s, remains the family figurehead. But his son Alessandro, 56, the most entrepreneurial of the next generation, has been pushing for a more independent role.
However strict Edizione bylaws that limit the scope of individual family members to sell holdings have so far blocked any major shake-up.
Under Luciano’s late brother Gilberto, Edizione shifted away from the fading clothing business, moving into infrastructure operating concessions as a reliable revenue source.
The bridge disaster and the death of Gilberto a few months later left the strategy at a crossroads, facing a dilemma all too familiar to thousands of family-owned companies large and small in Italy as the founder generation ages.
For a FACTBOX on the Benettons: (Additiona reporting by Elisa Anzolin, editing by James Mackenzie and Angus MacSwan)
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