LONDON — Ralph Toledano is taking his relationship with Neo Investment up a notch, becoming a partner of the firm that has stakes in fashion and lifestyle brands including Victoria Beckham Ltd., Ami Paris, Valextra, Miller Harris and Alain Mikli.
Toledano’s role is effective immediately, and Neo said he will “actively participate” in all investment activities and partner with entrepreneurs and management to accelerate brand growth.
It won’t be a difficult transition for Toledano, who has spent his career in the fashion industry, heading brands including Karl Lagerfeld, Guy Laroche, Chloé and Puig’s fashion unit. He is chairman of Victoria Beckham Ltd. and will continue in that role. He is also president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode and a board member of the Institut Français de la Mode.
“When I was a fashion ceo and people asked me what I did, I told them, ‘I coach designers.’ Now, I’ll be a coach of entrepreneurs,” said Toledano, who added that he’s looking forward to “strategizing and helping to grow the portfolio,” with a special focus on Neo’s fashion businesses.
David Belhassen, founding partner of Neo, said he and Toledano “have developed strong ties over the years, based on our shared values and ambitions, both human and professional.” Belhassen said he would be working with Toledano “to foster the development of our partners and help entrepreneurs unleash their creativity.”
Toledano described Belhassen as “a great business partner and friend of many years,” and said he looked forward to working with the top Neo team “to boost cult brands and help ambitious creative entrepreneurs fulfill their dreams.”
In an interview, Toledano said Neo was proactive about pursuing potential investments. “Neo is always listening, and we are very, very curious. We look for talent, for people who have something new to offer. We don’t wait for people to come to us. We have a young, smart team and the business is very digitally oriented.”
Toledano was reelected president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode in July, a post he has held since 2014, when he succeeded Didier Grumbach. His appointment was approved unanimously at the federation’s general assembly, and his third term as president has been extended to four years from two.
A pensive and discreet executive in the vein of Grumbach, Toledano has strong relationships with a broad swath of retailers.
Asked how he was going to juggle his numerous roles, Toledano didn’t miss a beat: “I’ve accepted that fashion is my passion, and that I’m a workaholic.”
Neo Investment Partners took an undisclosed stake in Victoria Beckham Ltd. in November 2017, investing 30 million pounds in the London-based brand. One of its first major moves was to name Toledano chairman last March.
At the time, Toledano called Beckham “an artist, designer and entrepreneur who remains driven in her ambition for her brand. She is at the forefront of the shifting and increasingly digital fashion landscape and, having established her brand vision over the past decade, is now uniquely positioned to communicate this vision directly to her customers.”
He added that his ambition is to turn the brand into a modern luxury group.
Toledano was instrumental in the appointment of Paolo Riva as chief executive officer of Victoria Beckham Ltd. He described Riva as “smart, professional, strategic and the kind of person who sticks to his guns. But he also listens, and he clearly loves fashion and product. More importantly, he has the reputation of being a great leader, which is very important for this company.”
Neo, which was founded in 2009 and is based in London, said it aims to identify “outstanding brands with unique DNA and visionary entrepreneurs.” It wants to transform its businesses into “borderless cult brands.”
Among its other investments are Tom Dixon and Vuarnet, as well as French pâtisserie chains Ladurée and Paul.