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 retail stores.

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 brush-off.
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