The owner of Italian supermarket chain Esselunga, Bernardo Caprotti, has died at the age of 90, two sources close to the family said on Friday.
Caprotti had taken gravely ill in recent days, the sources said. Until then, he had been in talks over a possible sale of the group to private equity funds for up to 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion). The funds involved in the talks include Blackstone, CVC Capital Partners and BC Partners, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The current status of the negotiations was not immediately clear, although a source close to the matter said earlier on Friday he was not aware of any deal having been signed.
Esselunga employs 22,000 people and last year posted sales of more than 7 billion euros.
The billionaire businessman, who has been in a long-running legal dispute with the two children of his first marriage over ownership of the chain, stepped down as Esselunga chairman in 2011 and resigned from all executive functions in 2013.
He co-founded the business in 1957 and built it into Italy’s fourth-biggest supermarket chain.