WWD.com/accessories-news/financial/de-grisogono-sells-stake-to-investors-5813780/
government-trade
government-trade

Fawaz Gruosi Sells Majority of De Grisogono Stake

The Swiss fine watch and jewelry firm taps European and African equity investors.

Fawaz Gruosi

PARIS — De Grisogono founder Fawaz Gruosi has relinquished his majority stake in the Swiss fine watch and jewelry firm to outside investors in a bid to fuel expansion.

This story first appeared in the March 22, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Gruosi revealed Wednesday that he’d sold an undisclosed stake in the company to several European and African private equity funds that have a portfolio of long-term international holdings, including the mining of precious stones. Terms of the deal, including the identity of the buyers, were not disclosed.

“They got the majority, but I still have quite an important stake in it,” Gruosi, who founded the company in 1993, told WWD. He plans to remain in place to oversee the firm’s growth.

RELATED STORY: Watch Firms See Buoyant 2012 >>

In its first meeting, the company’s new board appointed Nicolas Abboud as chief executive officer, succeeding Gerald Roden, who has left the firm “by mutual consent” with the new investors, the company stated. It has also appointed Sylvère Demonsais as chief financial officer.

De Grisogono, famous for its use of black diamonds, will benefit from a capital injection of around $100 million, Gruosi said. “The company doesn’t owe money to anyone, whether banks or suppliers, which is already extremely positive,” he added.

Its strategic objectives include increasing spending on advertising and expanding its store network.

“There are new markets where we have never been, for example China,” said Gruosi, adding that de Grisogono will open one store in Shanghai and one in Beijing by 2013, to be followed by a further two Chinese units a year later. He expects operations in China to start bearing fruit after three or four years.

The company, which has 16 boutiques worldwide, is also seeking a location in Miami to open in early 2013, Gruosi said.

This is not the first time de Grisogono has sought a capital injection. In 2009, Gruosi sold a 40 percent stake in the company to a group of independent investors.

He said the new partnership would allow the company to enhance its product offer for what it termed “ultrahigh net worth individuals.”

“One of our partners is in a mining business, among others, so we will have the opportunity of having priority on a certain level of diamonds, and this will allow us to create more jewelry with diamonds in the style of de Grisogono, which is like nothing else available on the market today,” he said.

The company did not disclose its sales for 2011, but Gruosi said they had “slightly increased” during the period.