The acquisition is “an extraordinary, game-changing step for Kering Eyewear,” and the first of its kind for the group, said president and chief executive officer Roberto Vedovotto in an interview with WWD.
“Lindberg is really an extraordinary company, a luxury excellence in eyewear,” said the executive, touting the super-light, hypoallergenic titanium employed by Lindberg, which is even used for medical surgery, he noted.
He confessed the deal is “a dream come true” as he has courted the founding Lindberg family for 20 years, as far back as when he was helming Safilo Group.
“I know [CEO] Henrik Lindberg has received many offers through the years, always declining to sell and I think he accepted our offer out of sheer exhaustion, as I never gave up on the idea of this deal,” said a clearly upbeat Vedovotto with a chuckle. “I have a boundless admiration for the brand.”
Vedovotto said Kering Eyewear and Lindberg are perfectly complementary and that the latter will remain independent and will not produce for the brands in Kering Eyewear’s portfolio.
Market sources estimate Lindberg revenues total more than 100 million euros. While Vedovotto declined to confirm this figure and to reveal the amount paid for 100 percent of Lindberg, he said the company is profitable and solid. The agreement with Kering Eyewear will also help Lindberg ensure continuity and a future for the brand.
“Thirty-five years ago, we started our company in two small back rooms behind our family optical store, with nothing more than the idea of bringing unseen comfort and quality to the eyewear business,” said Henrik Lindberg. “Thanks to a team of dedicated employees, we can now — in Roberto Vedovotto’s own words — call ourselves makers of ‘absolute luxury eyewear.’ Kering and Lindberg share a common philosophy that design is ultimately about taking eyewear to an even higher level. That is why the Lindberg family is extremely happy to be able to pass the torch on to Kering Eyewear. Under Roberto Vedovotto’s leadership and backed by the impressive values and high standards of the Kering Group, I am convinced that the Lindberg brand will be taken to new heights and the key values and the unique DNA kept.”
Citing Lindberg’s 6,000 partners and presence in 135 countries in the world, Vedovotto believes the brand has further growth potential, while “preserving its character and design.”
Vedovotto’s motto is that Kering Eyewear, founded in 2014, and “merely an idea on a piece of paper,” has grown “from zero to hero,” reporting wholesale revenues of 600 million euros in 2019. But he said “there’s always something to learn and I believe we will learn from each other.” He also said that Lindberg’s “unparalleled expertise in optical frames” will give Kering Eyewear “additional legitimacy with independent opticians,” and allow it to further expand in the optical segment. The two companies will be able to leverage synergies in distribution and geographical reach, he continued. The agreement will also help amplify Lindberg’s reach and increase its brand awareness.
Founded in 1969 in Denmark by optician Poul-Jørn Lindberg and his wife as an optical store, their son Henrik Lindberg has turned the family company into an international brand, widely recognized for its high-end manufacturing of design-oriented, lightweight, and customizable optical frames with a specialization in titanium.
Vedovotto praised Lindberg’s made-to-order capabilities and customer service, as bespoke glasses can be created through an extended modular system which contains billions of combinations, in a wide range of materials from titanium to acetate, buffalo horn, wood or precious metals and received in five to eight business days. “It’s the best in class,” he said.
Lindberg has developed and patented manufacturing techniques and innovations such as hypoallergenic, multi-adjustable and screwless frames that are key differentiating factors in the high-end eyewear market, observed Vedovotto.
The transaction is subject to the clearance by the relevant competition authorities and is expected to be completed in the second half of 2021.
Vedovotto set up Kering Eyewear, headquartered at the 17th-century Villa Zaguri, about an hour away from Venice, in 2014, launching a new business model, and the executive always credits Kering chief François-Henri Pinault for his visionary support.
Kering Eyewear develops and distributes collections for brands ranging from Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Alexander McQueen to Alaïa, Brioni, Boucheron, Pomellato, McQ and Puma. In March 2017, Compagnie Financière Richemont became a stakeholder in Kering Eyewear, which led to the production of Cartier eyewear. Collections for Montblanc, Courrèges and Balenciaga have been added and, most recently, for Chloé and Dunhill.
Vedovotto said the company’s strategy has not changed since its inception and it is working through partnerships with brands under the Kering and Richemonth umbrellas, and not through licenses.
Asked if the acquisition of Lindberg could mean a new business model, prescient of other M&As, he said “there is still a lot to do to exploit the company’s potential” but admitted that, “if something very interesting came along, why not?”
Vedovotto said Kering Eyewear will continue to balance sun and optical glasses, fully leveraging the potential of the brands, and said the company “worked well” during the COVID-19 pandemic, “with passion, commitment and team spirit, expanding its market share. In general, there are great prospects for the eyewear sector, which has suffered less than other categories,” also in light of the increased need for optical frames caused by the prolonged use of screens during the lockdowns.