Smeg has paid tribute to its President, Roberto Bertazzoni, who has died at the age of 81.

Roberto Bertazzoni led Smeg from the very early 1970s – the company founded by his father, Vittorio Bertazzoni Snr in 1948.

Under his leadership, he expanded the business from dishwashers, washing machines and cooking appliances into categories including refrigeration and the signature FAB28 fridge. He was also instrumental in collaborating with architects and industrial designers including Guido Canali and Renzo Piano.

In 1993, he was appointed as a Knight of the Republic (Cavaliere del Lavoro) by the President of the Republic of Italy – recognised for his ‘entrepreneurial formula that combines management attention with quality, innovation, technology and product style’.

Roberto’s son Vittorio Bertazzoni Jnr, who was appointed CEO of Smeg in 2007, started working very closely with his father when he joined the business in 1998 soon after completing his university studies, as well as work with other companies outside of the appliance industry.

The company now sells appliances in 60 countries, employing 2,600 people with an annual turnover close to one billion Euros.

The funeral was held on Tuesday at Guastalla, near the Smeg headquarters and also where Roberto was born in December 1942.

Smeg Australia managing director, Wayne Campbell said it is a tremendous loss for the business, as well as the global appliance industry.

“It was very sad to receive the news on the passing of our President Mr Roberto Bertazzoni. A man of the highest integrity within the manufacturing and appliance industry. He was instrumental in the implementation of the Smeg Australia subsidiary and the President’s commitment and loyalty to all Smeg Australia employees will be sadly missed. Our valued business partners who have also had the opportunity to meet the President will be saddened by his passing,” Campbell told Appliance Retailer.

Former Smeg global export director and current Smeg brand ambassador, Emer Zavaroni also shared his feelings on the passing of Roberto Bertazzoni.

“Ever since I received the phone call on Easter Sunday from our CEO Vittorio Bertazzoni that his father had passed away, I remain in disbelief that it could be true. I have had the honour and privilege of working closely with him for 55 years, but it is also an honour and a privilege for me to be able to say that today I am working with the third generation of this wonderful family having started with the founder Vittorio Senior, with whom I made my first trip to Australia in 1973.

“Since then, Australia has always been an extremely important market for us. Doctor Roberto Bertazzoni, as everyone calls him in Italy, was a man of great vision, a man of great culture which he has transferred entirely into his work, creating a brand of great notoriety all over the world. He has always worked in the respect of the consumer, creating, and offering products not only of great quality but also of a unique beauty thanks to the great intuition he has had since the beginning of the 1970s to collaborate with world famous architects.

“In addition to his love for his work, he was also a special person from a human point of view, with great respect and care towards the people who worked for him. I will miss him enormously, in addition to being an exceptional employer for me, a relationship of true respect and sincere friendship has always existed between us. His contribution will be greatly missed in Smeg, but I can say with certainty that today Smeg is in a position of great strength.

“His son, our CEO Vittorio Bertazzoni, has been working for many years to ensure long-term stability and security as well as a brilliant future for the company as he continues to follow in his father’s footsteps. In the great pain of this great loss all that remains for me to say is: ‘Roberto rest in peace’,” Zavaroni said.

Dr Reinhard Zinkann, executive director and co-proprietor of Miele, provided this comment on behalf of his company and other European manufacturers.

“Roberto Bertazzoni’s passing is deeply saddening and a profound loss for the business world. His entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to brand excellence and Italian design have left a mark on the industry. His vision led the company to extraordinary success within its niche. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends at this difficult time. He will be remembered as a remarkable entrepreneur whose legacy will continue to inspire,” Dr Zinkann said.

Pictured: Smeg CEO, Vittorio Bertazzoni with his father and President, Roberto Bertazzoni.