MILAN — Valextra SpA has a new partner that will help expand the brand and launch an initial public offering down the road. The Italian luxury accessories company said Friday that London-based investment firm NEO Capital has taken a stake in Valextra through a capital increase. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. Former Bally chairman and chief executive officer Marco Franchini has been tapped as Valextra’s ceo. The sale and appointment confirm earlier WWD reports. Chairman Emanuele Carminati Molina will continue in that role, and his nephew Marco Scarpella will remain a member of the board.Touting Valextra’s “highest international recognition” as “the finest expression of Italian craftsmanship,” Carminati Molina said the company was “now ready for a new phase of growth, partnering with NEO and to become one of the leading players in the luxury leather industry, qualifying for a possible IPO in the future.”An enthusiastic Franchini described Valextra as “a fantastic brand with a unique heritage.”After seven years, Franchini left Bally in spring 2009 after orchestrating a major overhaul, tapping Brian Atwood as creative director and returning the company to the black.Prior to Bally, he was Gucci’s general manager for Europe for eight years in the late Nineties. “For the last 20 years I have been working in the luxury arena, and I am honored to put forth my experience towards such a prestigious and luxurious brand,” said Franchini.NEO Capital has investments in companies including Alain Mikli, Ladurée, Vuarnet, Obikà and Miller Harris.Founding partner David Belhassen said the firm plans to “continue Valextra’s international development,” defining the brand as “sophisticated and refined,” leveraging on “heritage and a tradition of quality, luxury and innovation, which has been preserved through the years.”The Italian company last year had revenues of 13.5 million euros, or $17.3 million at average exchange.The label dates back to 1937, when Giovanni Fontana opened the first Valextra boutique in Milan’s Piazza San Babila. Valextra has a flagship in Milan, opened in 2004 and housed in a stately five-story palazzo on Via Manzoni; six stores in Japan, and five in Korea. The brand is exclusively distributed by Barneys New York in the U.S., Le Bon Marché in Paris and Selfridges in London, in addition to 11 other retailers in Europe.
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