Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Italian designer Gilberto Benetton died Monday after a brief illness, his family said. He was 77.
Benetton co-founded the Benetton Group with his siblings in 1965. The company grew into a clothing empire best known for its colorful sweaters and oft-controversial ad campaigns.
"We remember with affection, respect and immense gratitude Gilberto Benetton," the company said on Twitter. "We would like to dedicate a moment of silence for the man who created ... an admired and well-respected group around the world."
The business was founded by Gilberto, brothers Luciano and Carlo and sister Giuliana. Carlo Benetton died in July.
The Benetton Group, which has 5,000 stores in 120 countries, is perhaps best known for advertisements that challenged social norms on racism, sexuality, war and the AIDS epidemic.
Gilberto Benetton diversified the company, taking on infrastructure and real estate using the family fortune to create Edizone, which performs work in transportation infrastructure, airports, restaurants and telecommunications.
Benetton absorbed much of the blame when the Morandi Bridge collapsed in August in Geneo, Italy, killing 43 people.
Now, the Benetton empire will have to find a successor. Gilberto Benetton's daughter Sabrina is expected to take over the chairman role for Edizione's board. Luciano's son Alessandro left the company to found his own equity fund in 2014.
Gilberto Benetton also loved sports and introduced rugby, volleyball and basketball to his home town of Treviso.