From sweaters to roads: Benetton’s takeover bid for Atlantia

MILAN, April 13 (Reuters) – Benetton Edizione holding company and U.S. investment fund Blackstone (BX.N) are set to launch a takeover bid for Italian infrastructure group Atlantia (ATL.MI) in in what would be one of the largest global deals this year. Read more

Atlantia’s sale of its highway business and possible change in ownership could help draw a line under years of political wrangling and reputational damage following the deadly 2018 collapse of a highway bridge it exploited.

The Benetton family began building their fortunes in the 1960s with a small Italian knitwear factory and now hold stakes in businesses spanning infrastructure and stores.

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Here is a timeline of the Benetton business empire.

* 1955 – Luciano, the eldest of four Benetton siblings, begins selling the colorful sweaters that his sister Giuliana creates at her home in Treviso, north-eastern Italy.

* 1965 – Luciano, Giuliana and their younger brothers Gilberto and Carlo create their eponymous clothing group with its first factory in the small town of Ponzano Veneto.

* 1978 – A major overseas expansion brings exports to 60% of production.

* 1981 – The Edizione holding company is created. It is controlled by the four founders and their families, through four other holding companies.

* 1982 – The Benetton Group hires photographer Oliviero Toscani whose distinctive advertising campaigns draw worldwide attention to the United Colors of Benetton brand.

* 1986 – The Benetton clothing group is listed on the Milan Stock Exchange.

* 1995 – Edizione takes a stake in Italian caterer Autogrill in one of Italy’s first privatizations, as the group begins to diversify its business.

* 2000 – Public toll motorway operator Autostrade per l’Italia is privatized and Edizione and other investors buy a 30% stake.

* 2003 – Edizione launches a tender offer for shares in Autostrade, increasing its stake to approximately 84% of the company, which later changes its name to Atlantia.

* 2005 – Edizione expands into the airport sector, which years later will merge with Atlantia.

* 2012 – Edizione reimburses the Benetton group to relaunch the textile activity.

* 2018 (March) – Atlantia acquires a 15.5% stake in Channel Tunnel operator Getlink.

* 2018 (July) – Edizione acquires a stake in the Spanish telecom antenna group Cellnex.

* 2018 (July) – Carlo Benetton, the youngest of four siblings, dies.

* 2018 (August) – A bridge in Italy, operated by a subsidiary of Atlantia, collapses, killing 43 people. The disaster sparks a dispute with the Italian government, which threatens to revoke concessions held by Atlantia subsidiary Autostrade per l’Italia to operate the toll highways.

* 2018 (October) – Gilberto Benetton, who orchestrated the diversification of the family empire, dies aged 77.

* 2018 (October) – Atlantia completes the acquisition of Spanish toll road operator Abertis.

* 2021 (June) – Atlantia’s board accepts an offer from Italian public lender CDP and its partners Blackstone and Macquarie for its 88% stake in highway unit Autostrade, in a valuation deal the company to 9 billion euros.

* 2022 (January) – Alessandro Benetton, Luciano’s son, becomes chairman of Edizione, tightening the family’s grip on its investments.

* 2022 (January) – Atlantia agrees to buy the Yunex Traffic division of Siemens (SIEGn.DE) for 950 million euros ($1.1 billion).

*2022 (April) – The Benetton family tell Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) and Brookfield that they are not interested in the funds’ approach to takeover Atlantia, adding that they are in talks with Blackstone on the future of the group.

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Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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