Benetton boss to hand over to son after 47 years

ROME - Luciano Benetton, who founded his clothing company with his siblings 47 years ago, said Sunday that he plans to hand over the reins to his son Alessandro, already the firm's vice chairman.

"The rudder passes to my son Alessandro, who will become chairman," Benneton told Italy's leading daily Corriere della Sera in an interview. "After a run that has lasted 47 years, I will resign Tuesday from my duties in the company founded with my brothers and sister."

The half-century has seen the company grow into a giant, with some 6,000 stores in 120 countries.

Benetton, 77, who appears in robust health, sporting long hair and his trademark round glasses, said 48-year-old Alessandro had shown the passion he would need in the two years he has served as vice chairman.

The company, hit by rising prices of raw materials, notably cotton, as well as the economic crisis in southern Europe, last month posted a 28 percent drop in net profits for 2011, at 73 million euros ($96 million) on sales that were down one percent at 2.0 billion euros.

Benetton is aware that he is entrusting his son with a difficult mission, but said: "The challenge is always the same: do, imagine, innovate -- that's what an entrepreneur must always do."

He recalled when the company opened its first store in Paris in 1969, throwing itself in the midst of "undisputed lords of fashion, labels like Dior, Chanel, when no one was talking about casual clothes."

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