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Alain Dumenil Buys Into France Luxury Group

PARIS — The luxury sector may be navigating choppy waters, but not everyone is rushing for a life vest. <br><br>France Luxury Group, the fashion upstart founded last year by Mounir Moufarrige and entrepreneur François Barthes, has a new...

PARIS — The luxury sector may be navigating choppy waters, but not everyone is rushing for a life vest.

This story first appeared in the November 18, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

France Luxury Group, the fashion upstart founded last year by Mounir Moufarrige and entrepreneur François Barthes, has a new high-flying investor who wants to buy new brands, quickly develop the group’s existing ones, and go public, maybe as early as next spring.

Moufarrige, the manager responsible for making over Dunhill and bringing in Stella McCartney at Chloé, on Friday said French financier Alain Dumenil has acquired an undisclosed majority stake in the group, whose stable counts the dusty names of Jean-Louis Scherrer, Jacques Fath, Emmanuelle Khanh and the shoe firm Harel.

Moufarrige and Barthes retain undisclosed minority interests in the firm.

Dumenil, an investment banker who founded France’s ACANTHE real-estate firm, will bring to the group the men’s brand Francesco Smalto, which he acquired last year.

“I like to work against the grain,” Dumenil explained. “Luxury’s feeding frenzy has ended and that creates new opportunities to buy brands. The prices have come down and the market’s grounded in rationality.”

Dumenil’s priorities include opening Scherrer and Smalto shops in major cities, including London and New York. To acquire more brands, he hopes to drum up capital by listing France Luxury Group on the Paris Bourse.

“Our strategy is to go fast,” he said. “But we’re not out to compete with LVMH and Gucci.”

Instead, Dumenil said he wants to exploit “niches.”

“We’re working in the shadow of the giants,” he said. “There are many niches that those groups have left undeveloped and ignored either intentionally or unintentionally. We intend to exploit them.”

Meanwhile, Moufarrige remains the group’s chief executive officer with Barthes as the managing director.

“Mr. Dumenil has a real affinity for luxury products,” Moufarrige said. “And he’s a financial wizard.”

Moufarrige said the firm was presently pursuing acquisitions. He declined to provide details.

“I guess most of these [luxury groups] are busy digesting what they purchased in the moment of frenzy,” he said. “One has to be aggressive in a market that today is not bringing the same multiples. It creates opportunities.”