Billionaire Del Vecchio Says ‘Why Not’ to Grillo as Premier

Billionaire Leonardo Del Vecchio, the second-richest Italian, praised Beppe Grillo for taking a novel approach to public policy in Italy and said he could support the ex-comic as a prime minister.

“Grillo the premier, why not?” Del Vecchio told Italian newswire Ansa today in Milan. A spokeswoman for Del Vecchio’s Luxottica SpA (LUX) confirmed the comments and said the entrepreneur’s remarks were made off the cuff after he was approached by journalists on his way to lunch.

Grillo, 64, is at the center of negotiations over the formation of Italy’s next government after his upstart political party won more than 160 seats in the Feb. 24-25 general election. Grillo, who ran on a platform of anti-austerity and more robust social safety nets, is jockeying with established politicians like Pier Luigi Bersani and three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi for influence over the next administration.

“I don’t think Grillo is stupider than the ones we have had up to now,” Del Vecchio told Ansa. “I don’t mind the way he has of reasoning over ideas.”

Grillo has said he won’t accept a position in government because a manslaughter conviction in the 1980s, according to him, renders him unfit to serve. Grillo was convicted for his role in a single-car accident that killed two friends and their son. Grillo, the face of his party’s campaign, wasn’t on an electoral list and won’t enter parliament.

Del Vecchio has a net wealth of $15.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s index, placing the Luxottica founder 48th in the world in the ranking. Milan-based Luxottica, the world’s biggest eye-glasses maker, owns LensCrafters Inc. and has licensing agreements for brands including Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana.

Michele Ferrero, the richest Italian, has a fortune of $24.2 billion based on his ownership the world’s fourth-largest chocolate maker and producer of Nutella. Berlusconi, a media magnate, has a wealth of $6.1 billion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Frye in Rome at afrye@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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