MILAN — In another corporate shake-up in Milan, Roberto Cavalli SpA has tapped Gian Giacomo Ferraris as its new chief executive officer to succeed Renato Semerari, who is leaving the Italian fashion group over strategic differences.

“It was my first day at the company’s Milan office to meet employees and management and I am now on my way to Florence to meet the design team,” Ferraris told WWD. “This is an exciting challenge and I am up for it.”

The affable and understated executive said any other comment was “premature” at this time.

The abrupt departure of Semerari and Ferrari’s arrival confirmed a WWD fashion scoop published Thursday.

At the same time, Francesco Trapani is leaving his role as president of Roberto Cavalli, effective Sept. 10. Trapani became chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s watches and jewelry division after the French luxury group acquired the Italian jewelry brand and left in 2014 to join Clessidra. There, he spearheaded the acquisition of Roberto Cavalli. His departure was expected following Italmobiliare’s acquisition of the private equity fund in May. Trapani is also Clessidra’s chairman and will leave that role in the second half of September.

Ferraris — who led Versace as its ceo until May, when he suddenly exited and was succeeded by Alexander McQueen’s ceo Jonathan Akeroyd — brings to Cavalli years of experience in fashion luxury groups including Gucci, Prada and Jil Sander.

“A deep knowledge of the sector and important professional experiences matured by Gian Giacomo Ferraris will allow Roberto Cavalli to consolidate its relaunch, a foundation of the development plans for the company,” Clessidra said.

Ferraris described Roberto Cavalli as an “iconic brand, that I know and appreciate, loved by celebrities and trendsetters around the world.” The executive said that “in line with the shareholders’ mandate, we will immediately define new initiatives aimed at developing the maison in the long term.”

“It is certainly a challenge, but Gian Giacomo has the skills to build Cavalli’s new business,” said Armando Branchini, deputy chairman of Milan-based InterCorporate.

“Trapani and Semerari have done the first part of the job, and started cleaning up the market and relaunching the brand — now is the time to develop the business,” observed Branchini, adding that Roberto Cavalli has gone through three owners in a short period of time, from the namesake founder of the company to Clessidra and most recently Italmobiliare.

Branchini conceded that Ferraris will know how to cut costs and reorganize the company, but will also be able to grow it, “taking into account today’s context and consumer spending, which is not the same as before.” He noted that Roberto Cavalli still has strong brand awareness, but now it needs to find “a stable identity.”

Referring to Semerari’s exit, Branchini saw it as almost inevitable, underscoring his close ties to Trapani for more than two decades. Semerari was previously president of Coty Group, and prior to that, was ceo of Guerlain and president and ceo of Sephora Europe. Coty is Cavalli’s fragrance licensee.

Ferraris joins Cavalli at a time of changes within the company and in a challenging economy. Last year was one of transition for the group. In the 12 months ended Dec. 31, net profit totaled 32.7 million euros, or $36.3 million. This compares with a loss of 9.7 million euros, or $13 million, in 2014. The sale of the building housing the brand’s flagship in Paris’ Rue Saint-Honoré helped lift the company’s profits, as well as its net financial position. The company is renting the space where the store continues to stand.

In 2015, revenues were down 14.2 percent to 179.7 million euros, or $199.4 million, compared with 2014. The company attributed the drop mainly to a decrease in orders predating Clessidra’s acquisition and to the challenges in luxury markets, especially Russia, where the Cavalli brand has been historically strong, as well as a contraction in sales derived from licenses. In particular, changes at the diffusion line Cavalli Class reduced sales by about eight million euros, or $8.8 million. The Cavalli Class clothing and accessories license went from the Italian firm Dressing, which in 2014 filed for a petition for a composition with creditors, to the Verona, Italy-based Swinger International. The first collections under the new six-year license bowed for spring 2015. Sales from licenses decreased 17.1 percent, totaling 53.7 million euros, or $59.6 million.

Dollar figures were converted from the euro at average exchange rates for the periods in question.

Semerari told WWD in March that the company had been engaged in its “Fix and Prepare” phase, initiated last summer and expected to last two to three years, first approaching the style, with the appointment of Peter Dundas as the brand’s creative director last year, succeeding the namesake founder of the firm. Semerari created a new management structure as the company was engaged in further developing its wholesale channel, in particular in the U.S., which accounted for more than 30 percent of sales last year. The company also relaunched its web site and e-store developing an omnichannel strategy.

Semerari said a second growth phase was due to begin in 2018 to expand the brand across markets around the world, mainly in the Asian continent also through strategic partnerships. The executive said he expected the company to still be in transition in 2016, with progressive growth from 2017 onward.

Ferraris’ successful track record includes the turnaround of Versace, which he joined in 2009. He launched an extensive reorganization plan aimed at returning the company to profitability in 2011; set in motion a cut of 25 percent of its workforce, or around 350 jobs, and sought to rationalize costs by streamlining such noncore operations as the logistics department to create a more flexible structure. In 2010, Versace swung back to profit ahead of the 2011 date that had been forecast, and started setting its expansion.

At Gucci, Ferraris was instrumental in managing the group’s women’s ready-to-wear manufacturing arm when the company took production in-house. Before his Gucci post and before returning to Jil Sander as ceo in 2004, Ferraris worked at the German firm in Hamburg as industrial director and was responsible for the company’s entire production process.

Upon the acquisition of Cavalli, Trapani said he saw strong potential in the women’s rtw business “that can improve and adjacent categories that are underdeveloped, such as men’s, bags, shoes and accessories.” He also said that, geographically, the brand was well-covered in Europe and the U.S., partially in the Middle East and was practically absent in Asia.

In addition to the signature brand, the group includes the young casual Just Cavalli, the bridge line Cavalli Class, the Roberto Cavalli junior line and a home collection and a hospitality sector through its network of Cavalli Clubs and Cavalli Cafés, in cities ranging from Miami to Dubai.

Cavalli’s network of stores last year totaled 182.

In April 2015, Clessidra took a 90 percent stake in Cavalli, with the designer, who founded the firm in the Seventies, holding the remaining 10 percent. Financial details were not disclosed, but market sources estimated that Clessidra bought the brand for between 380 million euros and 400 million euros, or $418 million and $440 million at current exchange.

Claudio Sposito, chairman and ceo of the Milan-based private equity firm who died in January, founded Clessidra in 2003, building it into one of the most active firms in Italy’s luxury and fashion sector. After Sposito’s death, Trapani was named chairman. Clessidra controls the Buccellati brand, and, as reported, is in talks with potential investors, including Compagnie Financière Richemont SA, to sell the label. Clessidra also has a 35 percent stake in Harmont & Blaine SpA.

Italmobiliare, which is listed on the Italian Stock Exchange, holds and manages a diversified portfolio of investments and equity interests worth more than two billion euros, or $2.27 billion. In May, Italmobiliare took control of Clessidra for roughly 20 million euros, or $22 million, sparking speculation over the future of its luxury and fashion portfolio.

Carlo Pesenti is ceo of Italmobiliare. The powerful Pesenti family founded one the largest cement producers in the world, Italcementi, in Bergamo, Italy, in 1864. The Pesentis, who over the years also controlled banks, insurance companies and automaker Lancia, among other investments, are flush with cash after the recent sale of stakes in Italcementi to HeidelbergCement.

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