PARIS — At 80, designer Pierre Cardin figures he’s done just about everything possible — except sell his far-flung holdings.
But Cardin told WWD last week he has set himself a deadline to do just that within the next 12 months. It is understood that French bank Crédit Agricole is spearheading the effort.
"I have three offers already pending," he said in an interview at his headquarters, flashing what he claimed were proposals."I have one offer from a Russian company, one in Asia and one in the United States. I want to do it in the next year. I’m still strong today. But who knows, in three or four years I could have gone senile or be dead."
Cardin said he has yet to accept a deal because "I’m holding out for more money." As is his habit in financial matters, he declined to provide details. But sources said selling Cardin’s tangled web of companies will be no easy feat — and the firms are likely to be unloaded one by one. Likely candidates for the U.S. business could be any of his licensees, which include Beldoch, which holds the license for Cardin women’s wear in North America.
Retail sales of Cardin products are estimated at $1.5 billion. But the designer insists on running virtually every aspect of his company himself, secretly. His empire spans some 800 licensed products, theaters, hotels, a cultural center in eastern Paris, galleries and some 30 restaurants.
When asked about recent reports that his house was strapped with some $60 million in debt, the designer scoffed. "That’s completely false," he said. "I have more money than I know what to do with. That’s a rumor started by someone — someone malicious — who owes me tons of cash. If I was in debt, I could sell one of my holdings and that would be it. But I’m not. That should prove to you that I’ve no troubles."
French business magazine Challenges this summer ranked Cardin the 44th richest man in France with a fortune worth $600 million. According to documents available at the Paris Chamber of Commerce, Cardin’s pyramid of companies in France generated some $45 million in royalties and other revenues — and $1.8 million in profits — in 2001.A spokesman for Cardin said these figures paint an incomplete picture because the designer also has companies in numerous other countries and their sales are not public information in France.
Meanwhile, Cardin insisted he’s not selling for the money. "I’ve always been avant-garde. Everything I’ve done has been 20 or 30 [years] in advance of everyone else," he said. "I was the first one to buy a restaurant. Now, look around you, [Pierre] Bergé and [Francois] Pinault have restaurants. I’ve always been misunderstood because I’m not conventional. I’ve done it my way."
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