MILAN — Another group is on the horizon.Compagnie Financiere Richemont AG has taken full control of jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels by acquiring the remaining 20 percent stake still held by the Arpels family, for an undisclosed sum. The move is part of the Arpels family’s strategy to build a luxury goods conglomerate in Italy.While confirming the acquisition, a Richemont spokeswoman had no further comment. The Swiss luxe group owns a portfolio of brands including Cartier, Piaget and Alfred Dunhill. Johann Rupert, chief executive of Richemont, has said he believes Van Cleef eventually could be as big as Cartier. Richemont’s sales were $3.69 billion in the year ended last March.In a statement, Van Cleef & Arpels said the transaction was amicable. Claude Arpels, a descendant of the family that founded the company in Paris almost a century ago, remains on the board of Van Cleef & Arpels USA. "The sale of our historic family company allows us to focus on our activities in Italy," said Arpels, who is currently chief executive officer of Redwall Group. Last month, Arpels took control of Redwall, a Bologna-based leather goods firm that produces the accessories and clothing brands Redwall and Borbonese.Together with several investors, Arpels said he was looking at "opportunities in Italy that our family…would like to take advantage of to create, in the next couple of years, a significant core of luxury brands."In particular, Arpels said he was focused on luxury brands that had "growth potential in international markets, with particular emphasis on the U.S. market." He said an acquisition will be announced "in the next few weeks." As reported last month, sources here say Arpels is interested in acquiring Alessandro Dell’Acqua’s business, currently owned by the designer and his partner, Gianandrea Cataneo. Dell’Acqua designs the Borbonese line. While some might question the idea of creating a new luxury pole in this difficult economy, when many luxury goods groups are cutting costs and revising their strategies, Armando Branchini, vice president of Intercorporate, a luxury goods analyst here, said, "This is exactly the moment to be brave and go against the current because there are some golden opportunities out there."Branchini said Arpels is helped by an experienced, in-depth knowledge of the luxury business. "The Arpels know the sector inside-out and they have the financial resources that allow them to be selective."
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