By  on November 17, 2008

MILAN — Italian luxury clothing company Brioni is looking for a partner.

The firm is putting a 20 to 25 percent stake up for sale and has tapped BNP Paribas as its adviser, said Antonella De Simone, Brioni’s co-chief executive officer. “This is a family company. We need to think about the future and ways to develop the brand,” she said.

The controlling shareholders of Brioni are the descendants of the company’s founders: Nazareno Fonticoli, the master tailor, and Gaetano Savini, the original fashion coordinator. De Simone is a granddaughter of Fonticoli and also oversees marketing and communications. Andrea Perrone, the grandson of Savini, took over the reins of the family run group at the end of 2006 and is co-chief executive, in charge of business strategies. A third co-chief executive is Antonio Bianchini.

“These complicated family relationships could be a deterrent for an investor that is only offered a minority stake,” said an industry source.

On the other hand, the company’s production facilities, based in Penne, in Italy’s central Abruzzo region, are a lure for potential bidders. Also, under Perrone’s management, Brioni, known for its tailored, handmade suits, has been attracting a new, more casual customer with more sportswear pieces. At the same time, Perrone has been expanding Brioni in Asia and emerging markets.

After recent store openings in New Delhi; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Baku, Azerbaijan; Cannes, France; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing; Macao, China; and Jakarta, Indonesia, which have raised the number of boutiques around the world to 58, the company plans to open a third boutique in Dubai by yearend. Stores in Zagabria; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Istanbul and Beirut, Lebanon, are planned for the first half of 2009 and in Lugano, Switzerland, and St. Petersburg, Russia, in fall 2009. That said, Perrone keeps an eye on developed markets, too, and is looking at opportunities in New York and Houston and has secured a space in Atlanta.

Umberto Angeloni, who married Gabriella De Simone, Antonella’s sister, became ceo of Brioni in 1990 and spearheaded the company’s expansion, turning it into a luxury lifestyle brand. In disaccord over growth strategies, the Brioni heirs bought out Angeloni and his wife at the end of 2006.

Men’s wear accounts for 90 percent of sales, while the women’s business has been bumpy. After a brief stint with current Salvatore Ferragamo designer Cristina Ortiz as its women’s creative director two years ago, which received lukewarm reviews, women’s is now designed by an in-house team.

The company reported a 26.1 percent spike in operating profits in 2007, following a wave of retail expansion. Earnings before interest and taxes reached 31.4 million euros, or $48.62 million at average exchange, while sales gained 7.1 percent to 206.5 million euros, or $319.74 million.

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