By  on May 9, 2005

MILAN — For Prada chief executive officer Patrizio Bertelli, the multibrand luxury empire model remains as seaworthy as his America’s Cup yacht, Luna Rossa.

“The model has not changed. We are still a multibrand company,” said Bertelli, his lightweight blue suit providing the sole burst of color in a stark white meeting room at corporate headquarters here.

In an exclusive with WWD, Bertelli outlined the company’s priorities, which include tapping the potential of the Miu Miu brand outside Europe; launching a Prada men’s fragrance in 2006; expanding product lines such as the Prada Sport denim collection; determining the future of Helmut Lang as it talks with potential buyers, and perhaps bringing in a new designer at Jil Sander by the end of the year as it continues to restructure the brand.

All this as Prada progresses toward its goal of finally carrying out the initial public offering it has postponed four times. But Bertelli termed that a “secondary priority.”

“We can start to rethink the whole process at the end of 2006,” he said, before listing the more imminent tasks, such as growing Miu Miu and the fragrance launch.

Bertelli is quick to defend the multibrand model as a business strategy, despite the debt he’s incurred to construct his empire. He’s also swift to brush off market concerns about the 700 million euros, or $910 million, worth of bonds due in June, saying that he’s got an excellent relationship with the banks eager to do business with him.

“It’s useless for us to explain this [so many] times. Sept. 11 happened and we were supposed to [meet with analysts for the IPO] on Sept. 18,” he said. “That’s the whole story. If Sept. 11 hadn’t happened, we would be talking about other things.”

The ceo declined to give full-year 2004 forecasts. In 2003, Prada Holding saw its net profits grow 34 percent to 36.3 million euros, or $46.3 million at average exchange rates for the period. Revenues declined 13 percent to 1.4 billion euros, or $1.5 billion. The Prada and Miu Miu brands accounted for one billion euros, or $1.15 billion, in sales, dwarfing the group’s other brands.

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