By  on December 23, 2013

CASTRETTE DI VILLORBA, Italy — “This is a historical change, and it’s a business model for the future,” said Alessandro Benetton, chairman of the family owned Benetton Group, referring to his decision to create and differentiate three new areas at the company — managing brands, manufacturing and real estate. His soft-spoken manner aside, the developments represent a significant strategic evolution for the Italian fashion retailer.

All three entities are directly controlled by Edizione Srl, the holding company of the Benetton family. This step, announced last month, is part of a three-year plan to restructure Benetton operations with a focus on its brands in an effort to improve profitability.

Benetton also revealed that he plans to dismiss several brands in an effort to further develop the potential of the core United Colors of Benetton and the group’s bridge label, Sisley, aimed at customers 18 to 30 years old.

“I see no other option but to dismiss brands such as Playlife, Killer Loop, Jeans’ West and others so that management can totally focus on the success of United Colors of Benetton and Sisley, our two leading brands,” Benetton said. “As you can imagine, this is not an easy decision for me, given how close I am to some of these same brands.”

Benetton said he arrived at the decision in part due to his experience as a board member of Moncler. “[They] confirmed the validity of what I have been thinking for a while about our company,” Benetton explained. “You simply cannot focus on too many brands and expect to be as effective. In Moncler’s case, over the years this led to the dismissal of the smaller brands.”

Sitting in one of the airy meeting rooms here, near Treviso and home to the Benetton Studios and the sprawling logistics hub, the young executive told WWD this decision “will bring a fashion product more quickly to the stores and it will be more competitive on the market. From the delisting [from the Milan Stock Exchange last year], my job was to prepare the company to streamline its mechanisms and operations to support and focus on the brand.”

Benetton has been instrumental in disrupting the company’s 48 years of family management. His goal was always to create a company led by management independent of the family. “I have been the detonator for discontinuity, making things happen and further separating shareholders and management,” he said.

Benetton has approached the family business with the eyes of an outsider, following his experience at Goldman Sachs as a mergers and acquisitions analyst and the creation of his private equity fund 21 Investimenti in 1992.

“It was almost a chance event that I was part of the family,” he said. “It was a good combination to provoke all this.”


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