By  on February 17, 2010

MILAN — Athena Consorzio said it plans to submit an offer to buy IT Holding SpA, owner of the Gianfranco Ferré, Malo and Exté labels and manufacturing arm Ittierre SpA.

IT Holding has been in government-backed bankruptcy protection since February 2009. The Athena consortium, a pool of small and medium-sized companies that operate in the fashion and textile industries, comprises several of IT Holding’s suppliers, which are owed about 200 million euros, or $272.5 million at current exchange.

In September, Athena Consorzio sent IT Holding’s financial administrators — Andrea Ciccoli, Roberto Spada and Stanislao Chimenti — a letter of intent expressing interest in the acquisition of Ittierre alone, but, according to the consortium’s spokeswoman, “following evaluations of the group and possible synergies, Athena is now interested in the entirety of IT Holding.”

The spokeswoman added: “The future ofthese suppliers is interwoven with that of IT Holding. These creditors are the ones most interested in the company’s recovery.”

Although the offer is still being finalized with Athena’s adviser GE Capital SpA, the spokeswoman said it was likely the suppliers would form a new company and their debt would be converted in equity in IT Holding.

A well-placed Milan-based source said this is “the only offer for the whole group that has come through as there is more interest in each separate company.” However, the source said “it is unclear what kind of funds Athena can provide or how such a disparate number of 30 to 40 different subjects may handle such a situation.”

The chairman of the consortium is Giuliano Urbani, a former minister in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government, and one of the founders of Berlusconi’s political party Forza Italia, now People of Freedom Party.

In January, Maurizio Borletti, chairman of Borletti Group, the department store operator that recently eyed investments in Escada and Christian Lacroix, said he was mulling a bid forIttierre, which produces the Just Cavalli, C’N’C Costume National, Galliano and Ermanno Scervino collections. According to sources, a group of Indian funds is looking at the financial information on Ferré, while Malo has been drawing interest from Italian cashmere firm Cruciani; apparel manufacturer Falber, which produces the John Richmond line, among others, and private equity fund Stirling Square Capital Partners, which controls the Jeckerson brand.

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