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De Grisogono Sells 40 Percent Stake in Firm

Like its famous diamonds, de Grisogono SA is keen on staying in the black.

Like its famous diamonds, de Grisogono SA is keen on staying in the black.

This story first appeared in the May 6, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The Swiss fine watch and jewelry firm, famous for its innovative work with black diamonds, has sold a 40 percent stake in the company to a group of independent investors. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Fawaz Gruosi, who founded the company in 1993, has amassed a pool of investors comprised of “family and close relations,” according to the company. In 2007, Gruosi bought back Chopard’s investment in de Grisogono, and in November 2008, Gruosi said he was seeking an investor. At the time, he estimated the company’s 2008 sales at 136 million Swiss francs, or $113.5 million, which was even with 2007.

According to the company, independent investors allow Gruosi more flexibility and independence than selling to a large conglomerate.

Gruosi, who is traveling in India on business, was unavailable for comment, but Giovanni Mattera, the firm’s vice president and director of operations in North America and the Caribbean, said, “This [cash influx] will help us stay afloat. We grew too fast in a short period of time. We had great requests and weren’t able too fulfill all the needs.”

De Grisogono has one stand-alone boutique in the U.S., on Madison Avenue in New York. There are a total of 14 freestanding de Grisogono boutiques worldwide, including those in Paris, London and Tokyo. In the U.S., the brand is carried in such stores as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. Mattera said business has slowed in the U.S. in the last several months due to the recession, even more so than in Europe. However, he noted that high-end pieces that are $80,000 and up are still moving in the U.S.

The company plans to open additional freestanding boutiques, as well as expand its wholesale business with current accounts and add new doors.

A general manager, financial manager and production manager will be appointed to improve de Grisogono’s operations in its Geneva headquarters.