Safilo Group S.p.A.
Located 20 miles west of Venice, Padova's a good-size city with
about 200,000 inhabitants. There's an impressive old town area
in the city center and Padova's also home to a university.
It's near the edge of town close to the entrance to a toll-road
freeway that I find the headquarters for Safilo. The four-story
building seems to be part of a factory complex. Large signs with
the Safilo name sit atop the building facing different directions-catching
the passing freeway motorists. It's an industrial area and neighbors
include a big beer brewery complex and one of those massive Ikea
There's a large fenced-in employee/visitor parking lot in front
of the building and one passes a guard sitting in a booth. There's
no notice of having to stop or check in with the guard so I cycle
right past and start to lock up my bike in a nearby area with
other bicycles as well as motorcycles. The security guard comes
running over and though he doesn't speak English I can deduce
from his animated behavior that he's demanding I show identification.
The scene is pretty hilarious because with the guard so intent
on making a big deal about me he fails to catch a look at the
half-dozen cars passing through the entrance.
Safilo, with revenues of $1.2 billion and 6,500 employees manufactures
and distributes eyeglass frames, sports goggles and sunglasses.
Besides its own brands like Carrera and Smith, the company has
licenses for a slew of names such as Hugo Boss, Giorgio Armani,
Gucci and Max Mara.
Upon entering the building one passes a bronze bust with the
name Guglielmo Tabacchi stamped below it and then continuing
ahead you can't help but notice the motorcycle parked in the
lobby next to a large red oil drum with a Carrera sunglass display
on top. I ask the receptionist who Guglielmo Tabacchi is or was
and learn he's the one who established the company in 1934. His
son, Vittorio Tabacchi, is now Chairman of Safilo Group.
I explain to the receptionist my sending a letter of introduction
along with some news clippings a month ago to CEO Roberto Vedovotto
and ask if she can call up his secretary to find out where or
with whom the letter ended up. While she's on the phone I head
over to a lobby museum housing an eyewear museum. It's an impressive
and nicely done galleria spread over two levels. I count over
38 displays filled with various eyeglass artifacts (mostly European)
dating from the 1600's to the present. Included are a monocle
in coral and gold from 1800 (Italy), binoculars in brass and
mother-of-pearl from 1800 (Italy) and, pivot glasses in copper
from 1600 (Italy).
After a fun 15 minutes of wandering the museum I'm face to face
with Helen Dixon. She's English and has lived in Italy for quite
some time and has a delightful noticeable Italian accent when
speaking English. However, this "assistant to one of the
executives" says it isn't possible to meet with anyone.
"Why?" I ask. It's 9AM Monday morning and late last
Friday CEO Vedovotto announced his sudden and unexpected resignation.
So, according to Dixon the media will be swamping the company
with inquiries today. As I continue to talk to Dixon I learn
CEO Vedotto's resignation doesn't take effect immediately but,
at the end of the month---ANOTHER three weeks away! Hmm, his
departure isn't as abrupt and sudden as she originally made it
seem. I don't need a pair of glasses to see I'm being given the
Every day over the next week I pick up the three major European
English newspapers (Wall Street Journal Europe, Financial Times
and International Herald Tribune) and find nary a word on CEO
Vedovotto's sudden and unexpected resignation.
Company website: www.safilo.com