MILAN — “Don’t just take the money and run.”
Giovanni Tamburi, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of the publicly listed Tamburi Investment Partners, or TIP SpA, on Wednesday shared his views on the M&A scene and initial public offerings during a talk staged here by Italian daily paper Corriere della Sera.
“I don’t want to sound like a poet or a philosopher, but an IPO should be done for the good of the company and not the investors,” Tamburi said. “We have been investors in Interpump [Group, specialized in the production of high pressure water pumps] for 18 years and the company has benefited from this and we have grown our own investment fourfold.”
Tamburi clarified that TIP is an investment company and not a private equity fund, which works with a shorter exit time frame. “We only buy minority stakes in companies that we then accompany through their development with a long-term commitment.” The Marzotto, Loro Piana, Ferragamo and Campari families are among some of the investors in TIP, which has stakes in Moncler, Hugo Boss, Ferrari, Italian retailer OVS and Eataly, among others.
“We try to make it compatible for Italian entrepreneurs who do not want to fully sell their companies, but who may need fresh funds,” said Tamburi, who sees a weakness in the “limited development” of some Italian companies, whose founders are often averse to a public listing. “We provide a middle ground, a development model that is less brutal than a sale.”
This led to discussing Giorgio Armani’s independence. “It would be a dream if Armani wanted to talk to us. He is the great master of us all, an icon of luxury; we would walk on our knees to Via Borgonuovo [the designer’s headquarters in Milan] if he ever considered an investor,” said Tamburi, possibly voicing every banker and luxury group’s dream scenario.
Conversely to their French neighbors, Italian entrepreneurs have long lacked an aggregator that could form a luxury pole and, acknowledging this fact, Tamburi recalled how the late Sergio Loro Piana told him he planned to sell the family luxury firm to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton “not for the money but for the good of the company, to provide a future,” noting how increasingly difficult it was becoming to negotiate store locations, for example, in competition with powerful groups.
“Today, the multichannel model, everything leads to the need of an aggregator to be stronger. Italians are individualistic, that’s why there’s never been an aggregator.”
Longtime Corriere della Sera journalist Maria Silvia Sacchi took the opportunity to ask about the recurring rumors in the industry, such as a possible sale of Etro. “It’s a beautiful brand and banks have proposed it to us. We would be interested, we are available to reason on this [with the owners, the namesake family]. We are here,” responded Tamburi.
“There are always rumors of takeover, the world is very rich, there’s a lot of cash flow, the problem is how to spend the money. Bernard Arnault does not want to be a banker,” Tamburi said. “Let’s hope we play a role in this ‘Risiko,’ which will only continue, there will be very important operations at increasingly bigger values. Prices will continue to stay high, the value of companies will stay high and I don’t see banks raising their interest rates.”
Asked about a possible war, following the targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, he said wars have “have historically boosted the stock exchanges. Consumers will travel, luxury will continue to grow.”
He gave a thumbs up to the LVMH acquisition of Tiffany. “The new generations want to gratify themselves, and jewelry is a great way to show your wealth and that will continue.”
TIP exited its investment in Furla last year and, asked about the future of the accessories company, which had set in motion plans to go public in 2016 but never did list, Tamburi said he did not know. “We partnered very well with Furla, which invented a particular segment and is a leader in it, with well-executed bags at an accessible price and what they call a joyful positioning.”
A public listing of Eataly has also never materialized and Tamburi said the company is “waiting and consolidating. We don’t need the money or to prove anything. We are very happy with Eataly; it’s an exceptional company that has been copied, it’s very innovative.”
Twelve of the companies TIP invests in are publicly listed and TIP itself is a public company. “The Bourse is the only intelligent way to grow a company. We have been listed for 15 years and in 10 years our shares have grown 735 percent.”
Tamburi was not negative about the sale of Italian companies to foreign groups, as he was much more concerned about the lack of up-and-coming young artisans. “I think the industrial system in Italy is undercapitalized. It’s absurd in this global world that a company be controlled by one family with a restricted product range. But it’s wrong to think it’s scandalous when a company is sold.”
He urged companies to partner with competitors or firms that have a complementary business. “Accessories are a problem for certain brands, there could be so many useful combinations.”
He still sees a future in physical stores. “Online sales have reached a plateau. The physical experience is important,” said Tamburi, noting TIP had invested in Printemps for about eight years. “Why not attract customers with a product and brand mix, find new, intelligent ways to create focused stores, with homogeneous products. This is what we are doing with OVS. Sure, it’s not luxury, but we are putting nice sitting areas to draw the customers in to have some fun — and food is always a draw.”
Asked about his biggest flop, he admitted it was TIP’s investment in the now-defunct Mariella Burani Fashion Group. “We had enthusiastically bought shares from L Capital, we liked the family, the IPO project went well for two or three years, then we realized there was excessive finance, they were ‘drugged’ by the success. There were banks that went along, advisers that invested, but one must always be careful. Even now sometimes finance is too aggressive and buys into imaginary projects.”