By  on May 29, 2007

MILAN — Missoni's newly tapped chief executive officer, Massimo Gasparini, is spearheading sweeping changes at the family-run company, establishing a new organizational structure, shuttering the Missoni Sport collection and growing the business through new stores and licensing agreements.

Gasparini, who began his new job in January, said the Missoni family decided to step back and delegate the management of the company to a professional management team, still in the assembly phase. The move echoes that of other family-controlled companies in Italy who have taken on outside managers, such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Versace and Benetton.

"Vittorio, Luca and Angela Missoni realized that, to manage the company going forward into this next phase of development, it was fundamental and necessary to turn to external management," Gasparini said, referencing the second generation of the famous fashion family. The three Missonis are the sons and daughter of founders Ottavio and Rosita Missoni.

The Missonis are also keen to better organize their company as third-generation family members come of age. There are nine heirs to the family business. The eldest, 24-year-old Margherita, is currently studying acting in New York and has a recurring role in Missoni's fragrance ads. As a personal side project, Margherita also is designing a costume jewelry line for Goldsmith's of London.

"Margherita is knocking at the door," Gasparini said of the young woman's rising profile at the company.

Gasparini, 48, replaced recently retired Umberto Monte, who had been with the firm for 40 years. Prior to joining the company, Gasparini worked at Gucci Group's watch and jewelry division and held various positions at American Express.

The roles of the various Missonis have evolved considerably into a new corporate structure, effective this month. Vittorio Missoni, formerly head of marketing and sales, now is overseeing "institutional affairs" at the company, acting as an ambassador for the brand at various functions. Luca Missoni is trading in his creative responsibilities for men's wear and the Missoni Sport collection to head up special events, oversee the fashion house's rich archive and spearhead the creation of an eventual Missoni museum.

Angela Missoni, currently the brand's women's wear designer, is broadening her creative control to encompass all the house's products, including men's wear. The spring-summer 2008 men's collection will be Luca Missoni's last design effort.Last year, Missoni's consolidated sales grew 6 percent to some 75 million euros, or $95 million. Gasparini said revenues will grow considerably as Missoni opens new stores. The executive wants to double the size of Missoni's 29-unit retail network within five years.

Gasparini said Missoni isn't gunning to match the likes of Gucci Group or Prada SpA, but it still has plenty of untapped potential as a niche player in terms of apparel and accessories.

"Our customer base is rather segmented and limited, but we embrace that in an extremely positive way," the executive said.

Elsewhere in the organizational structure, Gasparini has outlined clear roles overseeing merchandising, human resources and administration and finance, as well as communications, retail and production. Maurizio Ciriminna has just been hired as head of licensing development, another new position at the company. Gasparini will directly manage all the other departments as he gets to know the business and vets candidates for each position, some of which could be filled internally, he said.

In a bid to boost corporate transparency, Missoni's board (currently consisting of Vittorio, Luca and Angela) likely will expand to include Gasparini and other outside members, the ceo said.

The company is also drastically altering its product offering, discontinuing its Missoni Sport line and refocusing that business' resources, especially its fabric research and production know-how, on the top-tier collection and diffusion line, M Missoni. Valentino Fashion Group SpA — itself undergoing shareholder turmoil as the Marzotto family considers Permira's bid for majority control — produces M Missoni through a licensing agreement.

Missoni Sport's final collection will be for the spring-summer 2008 season. The company is planning a special event to commemorate the life of the collection, which spanned seven years.

Missoni's top-tier collection generated 75 percent of the company's consolidated sales last year, or 56 million euros ($71 million), while Missoni Sport contributed 20 percent, or 15 million euros ($19 million).

Royalties from licenses, including M Missoni, the beauty business with the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. and the home collection, came to about 4 million euros, or $5 million, last year.

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