By and  on June 14, 2007

ROME — Don't get ready to say arrivederci to Valentino just yet.

After a press conference here Wednesday to reveal details of the designer's 45th anniversary celebrations in July, Giancarlo Giammetti, his longtime business partner, forcefully insisted the show is a celebration, not a farewell.

"It will not be Valentino's last," Giammetti told WWD, again batting away speculation the designer would use the occasion to step down. The rumors only increased following Italian investment fund Permira's purchase of a majority stake in Valentino Fashion Group, the design house's parent, last month.

Giammetti insisted the new ownership structure will have little impact on his role or that of Valentino. "We have a bulletproof contract; nothing has changed," he said.

His comments followed those he and Valentino made to WWD last week reiterating they had no plans to retire — while at the same time indicating how the house might be structured in the future. Valentino Fashion Group has been searching for a potential replacement for the designer for the last two years, but with no success.

"I'm not thinking of retirement," Valentino told WWD last week. "In the future, we'll see. I love my work too much. There's still a lot to do."

Giammetti last week called Valentino irreplaceable and downplayed the succession issue. "Valentino is Valentino. Valentino is the man behind the brand and its creative force," he said, adding that any other designer brought into the mix would merely be a creative director and not an outright replacement for Valentino.

Meanwhile, the presence of Matteo Marzotto, president of Valentino SpA, at Wednesday's press conference also indicated there might not be any major management changes afoot. "You don't change a winning team, do you?" said the executive, who sold his shares to Permira through the Marzotto family's financial vehicle, ICG. "There is excellent chemistry [with Permira]."

The investment fund currently owns 53.6 percent of VFG and plans to launch a bid for the remainder at a potential total cost of $3.5 billion. In addition to Valentino, VFG owns a majority of Hugo Boss.

As for the three days of celebrations in July to mark the designer's 45th anniversary, the presence of Rome's mayor, Walter Veltroni, and of Italy's minister of art and culture, Francesco Rutelli, at the press conference showed the significance of the festivities to the city. Veltroni also took the opportunity to say he was taking steps to create a museum dedicated to Valentino, which will permanently display creations by the couturier.

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