The 89-year-old, who had been ill for several months, died yesterday in Monte Carlo where he lived, surrounded by his family, his company said in a statement.
Mr Ferrero was the patriarch of the eponymous family empire best known for its Nutella spread and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. The company’s products also included Tic Tacs and the Kinder line of products, including the famous eggs.
His father, Pietro, started making Nutella when cocoa was still rationed during the Second World War, Forbes noted in ranking Mr Ferrero and his family 30th on the list of the world’s richest billionaires in 2014, worth 23.4 billion US dollars (£15.2 billion).
The company was one of Italy’s most successful, a prime example of the “Made in Italy” brand of food and luxury goods that has defined the private sector since the war.
Italian president Sergio Mattarella praised Mr Ferrero as one of the leaders of the country’s industry, saying he was “always ahead of his time thanks to innovative products and his tenacious work and reserved character”.
Pietro Ferrero opened his first chocolate laboratory in Alba, in Italy’s northwest Piemonte region, in 1942. The business passed to Michele upon Pietro’s death in 1949.
Mr Ferrero developed Kinder chocolates in 1968, Tic Tacs a year later and Ferrero Rocher in 1982, according to a company biography.
Eventually, he introduced the Ferrero Rocher chocolates in Europe and by 1985 began selling them in the United States, the website says.
By 1997, Mr Ferrero handed over the running of the company to his two sons, Pietro and Giovanni.
Pietro Ferrero died in 2011 of a cardiac arrest, leaving Giovanni the sole chief executive. Mr Ferrero’s wife, Maria Franca, also survives him.
A wake is to be held in the Alba factory and the funeral at the cathedral in Alba, the company said.
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