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Cavalli Staying Put If Label Gets Sold

It's buy one, get one free at the Roberto Cavalli sale.

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MILAN — It’s buy one, get one free at the Roberto Cavalli sale.

In an interview with WWD, Cavalli said he’s firmly part of the package, should he decide to sell his fashion label.

“Roberto Cavalli is me,” the Italian designer said. “I have built it all my life. It’s like my big baby and I’m its big daddy.”

Six suitors, who last month tabled preliminary proposals for Roberto Cavalli, likely will be given access to the firm’s financial data this week to begin due diligence, WWD learned.

These are said to be private equity firms Candover, The Carlyle Group, Cinven, CVC Capital Partners, Doughty Hanson and Texas Pacific Group.

Merrill Lynch, which is advising on the sale, distributed a formal memorandum to interested parties in April, valuing the company at 1.4 billion euros, or $2.18 billion at current exchange — some 14 times Cavalli’s projected earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for 2008, according to sources.

Cavalli said he was waiting to see “the potential and the quality” of the offers on the table, and that only “the best” would do. However, he remained indefinite about giving up a stake — something sure to frustrate the interested parties.

“I don’t know yet if it will be a yes or not,” Cavalli said. “I don’t need money. I don’t need a partner.”

After losing out to Permira for Valentino last year, Carlyle is thought to be keen on Cavalli, as is Cinven, which has teamed up with Italian entrepreneur and department store mogul Maurizio Borletti, sources said.

Underscoring his motivation for putting his business up for sale, Cavalli told WWD he “would like to dedicate my time just to designing. Today, I have too many things to do.” He added that he was looking for a business partner who could “think in [organizational terms] with fantasy, like I think about creation with fantasy. Together, it would be a perfect combination.”

Despite due diligence usually taking around two months, sources speculated the suitors would have a tentative idea of whether or not to proceed with their bids inside four to five weeks. That said, Cavalli noted that he did not expect the sale to be wrapped up before the summer. The current economic climate worldwide also could delay, if not derail, any sale.

This story first appeared in the June 2, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“It will [take a] very long [time],” Cavalli said.

Meanwhile, the designer last week brought his latest lifestyle statement to drizzle-drenched London, where he showcased his brand’s wine in his penthouse apartment off the tony Brompton Road and later at a party attended by the Duchess of York, Camilla Rutherford, Saffron Aldridge and Bianca Jagger.

“Everything is fashion today,” said Cavalli, who also is working on designing residences and a Cavalli Club in Dubai, as well clubs in Milan, Miami and London. “It can be wine, it can be vodka, it can be many other things.”

The designer took that philosophy to heart when designing bottles for his wine, which is produced on his family’s estate in the Panzano region of Chianti and managed by his son, Tommaso Cavalli. The lower-priced Cavalli Selection sports a label featuring signature prints from Cavalli’s fashion collections. Cavalli Collection, meanwhile, has a flacon engraved with the brand’s signature serpent design and a copper logo featuring the Roberto Cavalli monogram.

Two thousand bottles of Cavalli Collection, which is sold in leather presentation cases, will be produced annually. A bottle of Cavalli Selection is to go for 40 pounds, or $79 at current exchange, to 55 pounds, or $109, whereas a bottle of Cavalli Collection with two black crystal glasses and a corkscrew will sell for up to 450 pounds, or $891.

Tommaso Cavalli said the family’s vineyard likely will be close to full production this year with 60,000 bottles.

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