MILAN — Brunello Cucinelli SpA is set to be one of the hottest initial public offerings in fashion history — and it already has the backing of two other major Italian labels: Ermenegildo Zegna and Benetton Group.

This story first appeared in the April 25, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Zegna and Benetton said Tuesday they have acquired stakes of 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively, in Cucinelli. The shares float on the Italian Stock Exchange on Friday.

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“With Brunello Cucinelli, one of our most important textile clients, we have had solid industrial relationships for a long time,” stated Zegna chief executive officer Gildo Zegna. “We’ve admired their farsighted business choices and the way they’ve established themselves at national and international level. And I’m sure that together we’ll be able to give an even bigger boost to ‘Made in Italy,’ not only in the interests of our companies in particular but for Italian industry in general.”

Alessandro Benetton revealed his group’s investment in Cucinelli during a press conference held Tuesday at the group’s Ponzano Veneto headquarters — a significant step that marks his new role as the group’s chairman. Benetton, who succeeds his father, Luciano, as the head of the Benetton Group, said the stake was purely a “financial investment,” but spoke of it with pride, praising Cucinelli.

“He is an entrepreneur I hold in high regard. He works with enthusiasm and passion, and his company stands for luxury, the family and knitwear — all values we share,” said Benetton.

He said the acquisition, totaling 10 million euros, or $13.1 million at current exchange, is “a sign of dialogue and exchange” with another company.

The shareholdings also clearly show the support of two high-profile executives at the helms of two major brands that operate in different segments and positioning, but who have chosen to believe in the future of Cucinelli, which closed its road show early and whose offer was oversubscribed 17 times at the highest price per share. The total value of shares demanded was more than 2.6 billion euros, or $3.4 billion, another example of the high demand for fashion companies doing IPOs after the successes of Michael Kors Holdings Ltd., Prada SpA, Salvatore Ferragamo SpA and, last week, Tumi Holdings Inc.

On Monday, the Italian luxury brand set the price of its shares at 7.75 euros, or $10.10 at current exchange, at the highest end of the range. As reported, shares were priced at between 6.75 and 7.75 euros, or $8.84 and $10.10, for the IPO.

Demand from institutional investors in a range of countries, including the U.S., continental Europe and Asia, was 18 times oversubscribed, while retail demand was seven times oversubscribed, said Cucinelli.

Including a capital increase, the Italian luxury fashion firm will have a market capitalization of 527 million euros, or $692.7 million.

According to the IPO prospectus published earlier this month, the company aimed to raise 151 million euros, or $198.4 million, from the offer. With the share price at the high end of expectations, Cucinelli actually will raise 158.1 million euros, or $207.6 million. Cucinelli said he decided to do an IPO to ensure gradual growth, continuity and strong management for the company he founded in 1978.

Brunello Cucinelli offered 20.4 million shares, or a 30 percent stake in the company (33 percent with the Greenshoe option). Its road show kicked off April 17 and was supposed to run until April 27.

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