Page last updated at 17:36 GMT, Thursday, 18 February 2010

Emilio Lavazza, boss of coffee giant, dies aged 78

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Lavazza became a global brand under Emilio Lavazza's leadership

Emilio Lavazza, the man who made his family name synonymous with coffee, has died at the age of 78.

Mr Lavazza presided over the international expansion at the Italian coffee giant, where he spent close to 40 years at the helm.

He also expanded the firm in coffee-obsessed Italy, where Lavazza now has almost half of the retail market.

Founded by Emilio Lavazza'a grandfather, it is also the world's sixth biggest coffee roaster.

A private personality

"He had two sides. He was not a public person - [people from Turin] are quite private people. But it was Mr Emilio that took this company to international markets," a Lavazza spokesperson told the BBC.

A very private man, Mr Lavazza gave only one interview during his time at the helm - to an Italian newspaper some 15 years ago - the spokesperson said.

Mr Lavazza's grandfather Luigi founded the family business in 1895 and when his father Luigi died in 1971, Emilio was appointed chief executive. He then became president of the company in 1979 - a position he held until being made honorary president in 2008.

He was the main architect behind his company's television-led marketing campaign, and expanded the Turin-based company's operations into foreign markets.

The company became synonymous with the Italian espresso under Mr Lavazza.

He commenced the international expansion in earnest soon after becoming president, opening a French office in 1982.

Now Lavazza holds 48% of the Italian retail coffee market and has operations in countries as diverse as Brazil and India.

It has forecast sales of more than 1.1bn euros (£1bn) in 2009.

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