UPDATE 1-Luxottica CEO exits eyewear giant ahead of Essilor merger

* Executive chairman Del Vecchio takes on all powers

* Del Vecchio's close aide Miller named CEO

* Move comes as proposed merger approaches (Adds details, comment)

MILAN, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Italy's Luxottica said on Friday that Chief Executive Massimo Vian would leave, as Chairman Leonardo Del Vecchio prepares the eyewear group he founded for a planned merger with France's Essilor.

Luxottica, the biggest maker of spectacles, agreed in January to merge with the top lens manufacturer to create a 46 billion euro ($54 billion) group with a global shop network and a portfolio of brands from Ray Ban to Giorgio Armani and Prada.

EU regulators were set to clear the merger without asking for concessions, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Luxottica said Vian would step down three months before the expiry of the current board's mandate as it simplified its structure ahead of the merger.

Vian's responsibilities will be handed to both Del Vecchio and his close aide Deputy Chairman Francesco Milleri, who will also take on the position of CEO.

"The post-merger integration of Essilor and Luxottica is fast approaching," EXANE BNP Paribas said in a note.

Del Vecchio, 82, returned to the helm of Luxottica as executive chairman in 2014 and has since presided over an overhaul of the business he founded in the 1960s, integrating its Oakley brand further, boosting digital investments, centralizing distribution in China and curbing online discounts of top brand Ray Ban in the United States.

Vian had been appointed CEO for products and operations within a dual-CEO structure put in place in October 2014, after Luxottica lost two bosses in six weeks. He had remained as the only CEO after co-head Adil Mehboob Khan left in January 2016.

An engineer who had joined in 2005, Vian will pocket a gross 6.3 million euros in addition to severance pay, Luxottica said.

"We have almost completed the group's reorganization and simplification process, which was started more than three years ago," Del Vecchio said in the statement.

Del Vecchio, one of Italy's richest men and a near legendary figure in Italian capitalism, owns 62.5 percent of Luxottica and will be the single biggest shareholder in the merged group.

He is set to share powers for the first three years with Essilor CEO Hubert Sagnières, 62, who was quoted in the Financial Times last week as saying the merged company would look for a new chief executive at some point.

"Sagnieres has ruled himself out - as too old - which is a not too subtle indication that Del Vecchio is not in the game either," EXANE said.

"Investors shouldn't expect a smooth post-merger integration path." ($1 = 0.8508 euros) (Editing by Alexander Smith)

12/15/2017 14:51

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