Versace Eyes Funding Options

Sources say turning to the banks may be an alternative to finance growth for the brand, as talks to secure a minority shareholder take longer than expected.

MILAN — Versace may be looking at plan B.

This story first appeared in the October 10, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Industry sources say turning to the banks may be an alternative to finance future growth for the Milan-based fashion group, as talks to secure a minority shareholder may be taking longer than expected. “Potential investors want to have a say in the decision making, so they are vying for either a greater stake in the company or for more power, but the Versace family is loath to relinquish either one,” said a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

As reported, the Milan-based firm is looking at selling a 15 to 20 percent holding by the end of the year.

When rumors about a possible sale first emerged last year, Versace chief executive officer Gian Giacomo Ferraris told WWD in May that there are “many ways to identify financial resources. We have banks close to us that can help us and we have credibility. We speak to banks as a normal procedure. We are defining the processes.” Ferraris has since then always said that the owners — siblings Santo and Donatella Versace, who hold a 30 and 20 percent stake, respectively, and Donatella’s daughter, Allegra Versace Beck, who owns 50 percent, want control over the company.

Another source said the delay in the negotiations “is just a stumbling block, and a solution will be found — it is unlikely the Versaces will sell more shares, but they will let the investors in on the decision making.”

Sources say the IQ Made in Italy joint venture, created last year to invest in Italian brands, and a separate fund from Qatar continues to be in pole position to invest in Versace.

The joint venture was formed by Qatar Holding LLC, a global investment firm founded by the Qatar Investment Authority in 2006, and Italy’s Fondo Strategico Italiano, the holding company controlled by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, or CDP, a financial company controlled by the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, which has a 70 percent stake.

IQ Made has no relation to the Mayhoola for Investments fund from Qatar that owns Valentino.

Meanwhile, New York-based fund Blackstone Group has also emerged as a possible suitor.

Almost a year ago, Versace tapped Goldman Sachs and Banca IMI to evaluate growth opportunities.

Last spring, Ferraris set a target for a possible initial public offering: when the company hits sales of 500 million to 600 million euros, or $676 million to $811.2 million at current exchange.