(CNN) — Gilberto Benetton, co-founder of Italian fashion label Benetton Group, died Monday at the age of 77.
Gilberto died at his home in Treviso, northeast Italy, following a brief illness, the Benetton Group said in a statement provided to media. His wife Lalla, daughters Barbara and Sabrina and son-in-law Ermanno were with him in his final moments.
His death follows that of his youngest brother Carlo, who died in July at age 74.
Gilberto co-founded the Benetton Group along with his brothers, Luciano and Carlo, and sister, Giuliana, in Ponzano Veneto near their hometown in 1965.
Their colorful woolen sweaters quickly became popular among local customers and the siblings soon branched out internationally, opening stores in Paris, New York and Tokyo.
Best known for its fashion brands United Colors of Benetton and Sisleys, the Benetton Group became one of the biggest retail giants in the world, achieving high street domination with a network of 5,000 stores in 120 countries.
Under the longtime artistic directorship of Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani, the Benetton Group frequently stoked controversy with provocative marketing campaigns designed to challenge social taboos such as racism, sexuality, war, and the AIDS epidemic.
One of its most controversial ad campaigns featured a doctored image of Pope Benedict XVI kissing an imam in 2011. The company pulled the ad after facing public backlash.
Gilberto Benetton was responsible for staging the diversification of the Benetton company into infrastructure and real estate through the family’s holding company Edizone, which he created 30 years ago and remained deputy chairman of until his death.
Edizone has investments in transport, through its main asset Atlantia; catering, through highway and airport restaurant chain Autogrill; and, most recently, telecommunications, with investment in Cellnex.