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Running a family business is like 'conducting an orchestra?

By Giulia Cambieri

Reviving the brand and attracting managers from outside the family are the biggest challenges for the Benetton Group, Alessandro Benetton, executive vice chairman of the Italian clothing empire, said in an exclusive interview to the Financial Times.

The 47-year old, son of the family business founder and current chairman Luciano Benetton, reckons the company has the potential to be relevant again in a retail sector that has been dominated in the past ten by fellow family-controlled fashion chains Zara and H&M.

“I think there is still space for Benetton but the brand needs to be reinforced and reactivated,” he said to the London-based newspaper.

Benetton, who graduated from Harvard Business School and worked at Goldman Sachs before joining the family business, added that he intends to bring in more non-family executive managers.

“The company needs managers. I see myself as the conductor of an orchestra, and not like 20 years ago, when that person was also playing the violin,” he said.

Benetton also described his father as “a very active sparring partner” and said he has “the most complete operational understanding of the business”. 

Benetton was established in 1965 by Luciano and is 70% owned by the Benetton family through their holding company Edizione, headed by Alessandro’s uncle Gilberto Benetton.

Today the clothing group, which includes brands such as Sisley and Playlife, operates in 120 countries around the world and had revenues of €2 billion in 2010.