MILAN — More change is in the works at the Salvatore Ferragamo group: Longtime chief executive officer Michele Norsa is expected to step down after the arrival of a successor.
The announcement came Thursday after the end of trading in Milan, where the company is publicly listed, and a month after the departure of creative director Massimiliano Giornetti. It is understood there is no relationship between the two exits. The Florence-based firm said “in agreement and full co-operation” with Norsa, it expects “to complete all the steps aimed at ensuring a smooth ceo succession within the current financial year.”
He joined Ferragamo in 2006 and “has expressed the wish to prioritize family and to focus on new professional interests after a long period of intense efforts and rewarding results, whilst remaining fully committed to his current role until a new ceo is appointed,” the company said.
Norsa, who spearheaded the company’s public listing and helped grow the firm globally, will continue to work with Ferragamo in a nonexecutive role until the shareholders’ meeting approving the 2017 financial statement.
Armando Branchini, deputy chairman of Milan-based InterCorporate, said Norsa “brought a top-rate organization to Ferragamo, working on priorities and defining strategies, carrying them forward with very strong discipline and energy, and we’ve seen the results.”
Branchini noted that the company’s listing took place in June 2011 when the environment was “anything but easy, when the financial markets were still reeling from the global financial crisis.” The IPO was a success, he said, and Norsa continued to “significantly grow” the company after the listing. The flotation of about 25 percent of its stock valued the company at 1.5 billion euros, or $1.67 billion.
Norsa joined Ferragamo with a mandate to prepare the company for a listing, expand into new markets, and introduce more accountability into the corporate culture. He was the first nonfamily member to fill the ceo position, under the chairmanship of Ferruccio Ferragamo.
His experience with the IPO process was one of the reasons he was brought into the company as he played a critical role in Marzotto SpA’s stock market spin-off of its fashion interests into Valentino Fashion Group. Norsa became ceo of Valentino SpA in 2002 , when Marzotto bought the fashion house from the now-defunct holding company HdP. He was also general manager of VFG’s licensed brands M Missoni and Marlboro Classics. Earlier, the executive worked at other family-owned companies such as Benetton, Sergio Tacchini and Rizzoli. Branchini credited Norsa’s ability to “keep his eye on the objectives,” succeeding in remaining unflappable and keeping good relations with the different members of the families he worked with.
The announcement of Norsa’s departure came the day of a Ferragamo board meeting in Florence, after which Norsa described 2015 as “an important year [that brought] great satisfaction, further growth of all company parameters despite the global uncertainties caused by the fluctuations of currencies, the terrorist risk and cybernetic safety.”
He said the company performed well in the Asia-Pacific area including Japan, which accounted for 45 percent of sales, and highlighted the strength of footwear, which represented 42 percent of revenues. Last year the company expanded its presence to 103 countries.
“Our directly operated stores are in 65 countries, totaling 662,” he observed. “Our presence is harmonious around the world. Over the next years our presence in Latin America could become more important.”
He also cited as increasingly relevant Australia, which has reached the levels of the U.K. as it has become a favored vacation site for Chinese tourists, and Mexico. As for 2016, he said it will be “very similar to 2015 in terms of volatility of the markets.” Hong Kong remains “affected by political [issues] but continues to be an important luxury market.” To be sure, Norsa told WWD last fall that “a balance per gender, category and market” was key to the fashion group’s continued growth.
Norsa, who spends most of his time in Florence and the rest between Milan and traveling around the world, has always valued the travel retail category, carefully monitoring the changing movements of tourist flows.
The public listing has offered the brand international visibility and, in parallel, the company has significantly grown profits and sales since the IPO, reaching net profits in 2015 of 174.5 million euros, or $190.6 million, up 6.7 percent compared with 2014, while revenues rose 7.4 percent to 1.43 billion euros, or $1.58 billion. This included a negative hedging effect of 51 million euros, or $56.6 million. Over the past three years, Ferragamo has been channeling investments into its own retail, opening stores and renovating existing units.
Norsa has also been instrumental in leveraging the potential of the company’s heritage, “the charm of the brand,” as well as appealing to the “loyalty” to the Made in Italy tradition. “This has been one of the footholds to build the brand,” he recently told WWD.