By and  on September 13, 2006

MILAN— Diesel owner Renzo Rosso is said to have another quirky design house in his sights: Viktor & Rolf.

The fashion maverick — who already owns Martin Margiela and produces the Dsquared line, as well as his denim giant Diesel — is in negotiations with Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren about a possible deal, which could involve buying all or part of their company, according to sources. Talks are said to be at an advanced stage, although a final price has yet to be agreed upon.

Several other hurdles to a final deal remain, however, and the talks still could break down.

Rosso — who is holding his Diesel show in New York today and reopening the denim brand's New York flagship on Union Square tonight (for more on the store, see page 18) — declined comment on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for Viktor & Rolf denied any deal had been completed, saying, "All the rumors and speculation involving any acquisition of Viktor & Rolf by Renzo Rosso of Diesel are completely untrue and unsubstantiated."

Horsting and Snoeren could not be reached for comment.

The Dutch designers have a complicated business arrangement under which they own 100 percent of their design house, but only 50 percent of the company that owns their trademark, which is called Brand Co. The remainder of Brand Co. is owned by Italian fashion manufacturer Gibò. Franco Penè, chairman of Gibò, denied any knowledge of a Viktor & Rolf acquisition by either Rosso or Diesel.

"On our end, we have had no contact with Diesel," said Penè. "We are not negotiating with Diesel."

Penè said he had the right to buy the designers' 50 percent stake at the same price and terms of a competing offer.

Penè said he hasn't spoken to the designers personally since the end of July, but that professional contact between Gibò and Victor & Rolf, through the designers' staff, remained normal, occurring on a daily basis.

Still, a deal involving Viktor & Rolf — which is said to have global apparel revenues of about 10 million euros, or $12.7 million — would not be out of character for Rosso, who has expanded his business in recent years by linking with quirky fashion labels. Rosso's Only the Brave Srl — the umbrella company that controls Diesel, high-end fashion manufacturing company Staff International and Maison Martin Margiela brands — is one of Italy's biggest fashion companies. Sales last year climbed 10 percent, to 1.1 billion euros, or $1.4 billion at average exchange rates for the period. The business is based in Molvena, a small town in the hilly Veneto region.

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