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Valentino In Play Again?

MILAN -- Valentino might have another suitor.<BR><BR>Sources here say that French conglomerate Frey is in talks with Holding di Partecipazioni Industriali to acquire the venerable Italian house. <BR><BR>"We are in talks with Italian and foreign...

MILAN — Valentino might have another suitor.

Sources here say that French conglomerate Frey is in talks with Holding di Partecipazioni Industriali to acquire the venerable Italian house.

“We are in talks with Italian and foreign groups, but there is no exclusive dealing with any specific company,” an HdP spokeswoman told WWD late Thursday.

Frey, a French financial company that has interests in real estate, champagne, wine and distribution and has stakes in the Mumm, Pierret Jouet, Ayala, Montebello, and Lagune brands, could not be reached at press time.

HdP, which owns GFT Net, Fila, Joseph Abboud and publishing house Rizzoli Corriere della Sera, acquired Valentino in 1998 for a whopping $300 million, three times the direct sales of the house and one of the highest multiples in the fashion business at the time. The deal was supposed to be the starting point for building a fashion empire to compete with the likes of Gucci, Prada and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which were all in luxe brand acquisition mode.

But more recently, HdP has made no secret of the fact that it is interested in focusing on RCS and its media businesses and has been seeking buyers for its fashion unit.

As reported, Opera, the investment fund backed by Bulgari, showed interest in Valentino, but talks came to a halt last year.