Salvatore Ferragamo

MILAN — Some light was shed on Thursday on the changes brewing at Salvatore Ferragamo.

Following an extraordinary board meeting, chaired by Leonardo Ferragamo, the Florence-based company said late that day it had reached an agreement with chief executive officer Micaela le Divelec Lemmi, who will stay on in her role until the next board meeting, scheduled for Sept. 7, communicating the company’s first-half financial results.

From that date, all executive powers will be exercised by vice chairman Michele Norsa.

The board also approved the terms and conditions of the agreement with Marco Gobbetti, who will succeed le Divelec Lemmi as general manager and CEO, but the company did not specify when he will be released from his contractual obligations at Burberry. As reported, Gobbetti said he would remain CEO of Burberry until the end of the year. 

Leonardo Ferragamo underscored the “fundamental role” that Gobbetti will play in growing the company “as part of an important enhancement of the brand and its potential.”

He also expressed his gratitude to le Divelec Lemmi “for the important work she has done” in her role since 2018, leading the company “with commitment and dedication even in the delicate phase of the pandemic, and for having contributed to the start of a process of transformation of the group with a view to customer centricity and retail culture that will be the basis for the future developments” of Ferragamo.

Le Divelec Lemmi will walk away with more than 1.97 million euros “as a consideration for the early termination of the relationship and as compensation for any damages whatsoever related to such early termination” to be paid by Sept. 30 this year. Le Divelec Lemmi was supposed to remain as CEO of the company until Dec. 31, 2023, as decided at the end of March. The parties confirmed the consensual termination of the non-compete clause, so no amount in this case will be paid to le Divelec Lemmi, who did not hold any company shares as of Thursday.

As reported, Burberry Group plc revealed earlier this week that Gobbetti, who took up his CEO role in July 2017, will be exiting at the end of the year in order to move closer to his family. Minutes later, Salvatore Ferragamo SpA confirmed that Gobbetti was taking on a similar role at the Italian company.

At the time, there was no mention of le Divelec Lemmi, although rumors about her departing the Florence-based company have been circulating in Italy for some time. Le Divelec Lemmi is a Gucci veteran who joined Ferragamo as chief corporate officer and was then named CEO in 2018.

Early in his career Gobbetti served as CEO of Moschino, and later spent 13 years at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, where he was CEO of Givenchy, working with Riccardo Tisci. He later decamped to Celine, where he worked with Phoebe Philo.

Unlike Burberry, which is 100 percent listed on the stock exchange, the Ferragamo family still owns and part-manages the business.

The brand’s source of sales is high-end leather accessories, which are less susceptible to seasonal trends or dependent on hot designers. They also bring higher margins and fall well within the methodical Gobbetti’s area of expertise.

Ferragamo’s former creative director Paul Andrew exited the company in May, and observers wonder if Tisci could be headed to the Italian brand, following Gobbetti. The two are said to be close, although Tisci’s collections at Burberry have been gaining sales and critical momentum.

Also, he’s waved goodbye to Gobbetti before. Tisci spent more than a decade at Givenchy, where he was creative director from 2005 to 2017. While Gobbetti was the man who originally hired Tisci, the two overlapped at the company only a little more than three years when Gobbetti left for Celine.

Gobbetti will be Ferragamo’s fourth CEO in five years: Norsa stepped down in 2016 after a decade and Eraldo Poletto left in 2018 after less two years on the job, succeeded by le Divelec Lemmi.  

Analysts see Gobbetti’s arrival as delaying a potential sale of Ferragamo, allowing the executive to engineer and execute a turnaround plan, after years of a slowdown at the brand. 

Speculation about a possible sale of Ferragamo has swirled for years, and has always been denied by the family, which has been easing out of top roles and hiring outside managers to take the business forward.

In the 12 months ended Dec. 31, Salvatore Ferragamo’s revenues fell 33.5 percent to 916 million euros, but the company reported a progressive improvement in the second half and a positive performance of the brand’s stores in the first nine weeks of 2021, topped by solid growth in China and South Korea and an 85.6 percent gain in the digital channel. In the three months ended March 31, revenues rose 10.3 percent to 245 million euros despite the ongoing lockdowns of stores in some countries, impacted by the pandemic.