October 19, 2018 / 5:55 PM / a month ago

Wanda Ferragamo, matriarch of famed shoemaker, dies at 96

FLORENCE (Reuters) - Wanda Ferragamo, the honorary president of the Florentine shoemaker founded by her husband Salvatore, has died at the age of 96, the family said on Friday.

Wanda was left a widow 58 years ago when her husband passed away. She took charge of Salvatore Ferragamo (SFER.MI) alongside her 16-year-old daughter, quickly learning how to run a business while raising her six children.

Wanda turned the shoemaker into an international fashion powerhouse by extending the business to accessories and clothing.

The group listed on the Milan bourse in 2011 and last year reported revenue worth nearly 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion).

In recent months the family repeatedly dismissed speculation about a possible sale of the fashion group and appointed Micaela Le Divelec Lemmi, a former Gucci executive, as the group’s new CEO in July.

Ferragamo, which issued a profit warning in December, has been battling falling sales and profitability, partly due to a clean-up of inventories. It said in July it would continue to invest in relaunching the brand.

“With immense pain... we want to tell you about our mother’s passing,” Giovanna, Ferruccio, Leonardo and Massimo Ferragamo said in a message to staff.

“Her precious teachings and her memory will be for all of us an example of righteousness and great passion for life.”

Wanda kept an active role in the company even when she handed over the chairmanship to her son Ferruccio.

Marilyn Monroe was one of Ferragamo’s customers, for whom the shoemaker created a high heel pump that became a signature model for the company.

Reporting by Silvia Ognibene and Valentina Za; Writing by Francesca Landini; Editing by Edmund Blair and Louise Heaves

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