By  on June 9, 2009

MILAN — The game of executive musical chairs at Versace SpA and Jil Sander AG has finally stopped.


As expected, Gian Giacomo Ferraris has been named chief executive officer of Versace, while Alessandro Cremonesi, chief financial officer at Jil Sander AG, will succeed Ferraris as ceo there. The appointments confirm a WWD.com story Monday.

Ferraris will join Versace and become a board member on July 15. The low-profile executive succeeds Giancarlo Di Risio, who resigned last week after a four-year stint during which he implemented a cost-cutting program that brought the fashion house back into the black.

On Tuesday, Ferraris declined to reveal his plans for the brand, but praised its international scope, well-established core values and quality. “This is a great challenge for me. I appreciate the fact that Versace has lately cleaned up its act, but I want to examine the company before I make any proposals,” said Ferraris, adding that, while it isn’t a public company, Versace’s “board is structured to resemble one.”

He said he has very high regard for Donatella Versace and her “modern and international design team.”

For her part, Donatella Versace said she is excited about the arrival of Ferraris after she; her brother, Santo Versace, and Allegra Beck, her daughter and majority shareholder, increasingly disagreed with Di Risio’s strategy. There were widespread press reports that Di Risio and Donatella Versace battled over the executive’s cost-cutting moves, although that was denied by the company. The board hired Bain & Co. to help develop a three-year plan on the brand’s future direction, which some sources speculated may have irked Di Risio. Sources also said the Versaces believed Di Risio wasn’t reacting quickly enough to the sea change in the luxury market since the recession began to bite hard last fall.

“I have had the chance to spend some time with [Ferraris], and he has great experience in our industry. He did a fantastic job at Jil Sander, and I am sure he will do a great job for Versace, too,” Donatella Versace said.

Ferraris praised Cremonesi, whose extensive résumé includes stints in Mexico, the U.S. and Italy.

“I have worked very closely with Mr. Ferraris these past [nine] months, and he was a great point of reference. I obviously want to maintain Jil Sander’s refinement and quality and exploit Onward’s vertical structure and retail network,” said Cremonesi, 41, referring to Jil Sander’s parent company, Onward Holdings Co. Ltd. of Japan.

Boosting communication between the company and its wholesalers and final consumers by tapping into such Internet technologies as Twitter and social networking is also an avenue for growth, Cremonesi said.

His arrival to Jil Sander in September marked his entrance into the luxury goods sector after working in such fields as engineering, information technology, infrastructures and construction. He became a Jil Sander board member in January.

Cremonesi’s early days at the fashion company saw upheaval as Jil Sander’s then-owner, Change Capital Partners, a London-based private equity fund, sold it to Onward Holdings, the Tokyo-listed apparel group, and its European subsidiary Gibò Co. SpA.

Ferraris, 51, also witnessed his share of change while running Jil Sander, where he was said to be increasingly unhappy under its new owners. He joined Jil Sander from Gucci in 2004 when the German fashion house was still owned by the Prada Group.

At Gucci, where he operated under Domenico De Sole’s wing, Ferraris was instrumental in managing the women’s ready-to-wear manufacturing arm when the company took production in house.

During his five years at Jil Sander, Ferraris repositioned the brand while grappling with changes in ownership; the storm caused by Jil Sander, the founder and designer, quitting and returning twice, and the appointment in 2005 of Raf Simons as creative director.

Even with such turmoil, he managed to grow rtw sales and the accessories division, and introduce new categories such as fine jewelry produced by Damiani, a made-to-measure service for men and eyewear.

The changes at two of Milan’s major fashion houses are unlikely to be the last, however. It is still unclear where Di Risio is headed next, although his name has been linked to Roberto Cavalli, which is in the process of selling a 30 percent stake to Italian fund Clessidra. Joining a private equity fund could also be an option.

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