By  on January 17, 2007

MILAN — Valentino SpA is entering its third phase at age 45.

The fashion company, founded in 1961, is stepping up its growth strategy under owner Valentino Fashion Group SpA and following the appointment last month of a new chief executive officer, Stefano Sassi. As part of that program, the company on Tuesday appointed Graziano De Boni, president and chief executive officer of Valentino USA, to the additional post of president of worldwide sales, marketing and retail.

Valentino also revealed that it has signed a worldwide license with Timex Group for the production and distribution of a luxury watch collection. The company said it expected retail sales of the watch line to exceed 60 million euros, or $77.4 million at current exchange rates.

The moves come as there continues to be speculation Marzotto is looking to sell Valentino, as well as talk that designer Valentino Garavani will step down later this year after the house celebrates its 45th anniversary during the Paris couture shows in July. However, company executives firmly dismissed both ideas in interviews on Tuesday.

"Mr. Valentino can decide to interrupt the collaboration if he wants to, he can communicate it when he wants, or he can decide to continue in the interest of the company he built," said Matteo Marzotto, chairman of Valentino SpA, "There is no contract with an expiration date."

As for a potential sale of the house, Marzotto said he didn't think "there has ever been such stability" within the company. Sassi said that, when Marzotto is involved, "small voices inevitably become big."

"Either you believe in and build the brand and its team or you don't. We each have an operative role and are sure we can obtain important results," the ceo said. "Shareholders are in the situation where they can see the results and operate accordingly. We believe in enhancing what we have and that there are no limits. These are relaunch operations, not meant for an exit [out of the company]."

Both executives pointed to De Boni's additional duties as evidence of Marzotto's commitment to expanding the Valentino brand.

"De Boni is a fighter, a team worker and has worked very well in the U.S.," said Sassi in an interview at the company's Milan headquarters. "There is still a lot of untapped potential for our label and with his knowledge of distribution in one of the most important markets for Valentino, he is the most fitting person for this role."

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