MILAN — “Roberto Cavalli: A relaunch, sure…”
With this sneering remark, unions kicked off a statement sent on Monday evening revealing that the owner of the Italian company planned to close its headquarters in Sesto Fiorentino, outside Florence. The decision would involve transferring all its 170 employees to Milan from the Tuscan city over the next few months, stated Luca Barbetti, from Filctem-Cgil in Florence; Mirko Zacchei from Femca-Cisl Florence- Prato, and the Roberto Cavalli RSU union.
The unions were told of the decision as the company was discussing the “cassa integrazione” wage support measure, after several months “of a total lack of clarity on the industrial prospects of Roberto Cavalli,” stated the unions, “in a situation of health emergency in the country” and all activities stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokesman for the Roberto Cavalli company confirmed the “informal teleconferenced meeting” with the unions for “a first illustration of the guidelines of the new strategic plan to relaunch and develop” the firm. This includes, among others, “aggregating all commercial and administrative functions in Milan. The company declares it is available to meet with the crisis unit of the Tuscan Region and hopes that it will be possible to find shared solutions in the next weeks.”
The unions expressed their opposition of the move to Milan, “a choice that we have tried to avoid with all means.” This “appears a decision that is unacceptable for a brand that, on the contrary, [was meant] to relaunch here in Florence. At a time when all companies in the fashion industry appear to prepare to the restart and the discussion is centered on the utmost safety of employees, the new Roberto Cavalli appears to be uninterested in the impact that this decision can have on its workers. This is a decision that is not supported by a necessary industrial plan.”
Back in 2016, with the goal to streamline its company structure, Cavalli said it was closing its Milan corporate and design offices and would transfer all functions to Tuscany, with a rationalization of production and logistics.
Lamenting the choices made so far in the management of the company, which the unions alleged have ignored the protection of jobs and work conditions, they concluded by stating that they “remain convinced the relaunch of the image of a company of this kind does not only pass through advertising but also through the level of social responsibility toward the workers.” The unions have asked the Tuscan region to reactivate a crisis table. “This is huge for the region and the decision would dramatically impoverish the territory,” a union spokesman said.
The acquisition of Roberto Cavalli was finalized at the end of November, as the founder and chairman of Damac Properties, Hussain Sajwani, confirmed the purchase of 100 percent of the Italian fashion house through his private investment company Vision Investments. The investment firm, part of the Dico Group, is an evolution of a partnership that was signed in 2017 between Cavalli and the Dico Group for the development of Cavalli interiors for luxury hotels under the Aykon brand.
Dico, which is Sajwani’s multibillion-dollar investment arm established in 1992, is working on a five-star hotel tower in Dubai that is expected to comprise 220 rooms and be completed in 2023. When the deal was revealed, Cavalli chief executive officer Gian Giacomo Ferraris said this was the first of at least five Aykon hotels to open in 10 years and to be decorated by Cavalli. Damac, which is one of the top 10 companies publicly listed on the Dubai Financial Market with a market capitalization of $4 billion, is funding the project with an investment of $500 million. Damac is also building Just Cavalli villas in Dubai. Market sources speculated about how long Ferraris will stay on.
The acquisition put an end to a long series of twists and turns for Cavalli. In October, the Court of Milan approved the buyer’s restructuring plan for Cavalli after Vision Investment last summer signed a binding contract with the Florence-based fashion company and its shareholder Varenne 3. Italian private equity fund Clessidra Sgr took control of Cavalli in 2015 through its Varenne vehicle, which at the time included L-GAM and Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd.
The binding agreement was in compliance with Cavalli’s “composition with creditors” with the Court of Milan and it allowed the business to continue while it held discussions with creditors and implemented a debt restructuring plan. Financial details and the amount of the debt were not disclosed, although sources peg the transaction at around 160 million euros and believe the agreement includes a capital increase of around 65 million euros and the payment of all creditors. The company’s American subsidiary, Art Fashion Corp., filed for Chapter 7 and ceased all operations last April. In March last year, the brand’s creative director Paul Surridge exited the fashion house.