MILAN — Documents on the mission of the Giorgio Armani Foundation show it mirrors what have been the designer’s own style guidelines for more than four decades.
“Essential, modern, elegant, unostentatious with attention to details and fit,” the foundation will also ensure “attention to innovation, excellence, quality and product refinement.”
According to the documents, which were divulged by news agency Radiocor, the Giorgio Armani Foundation will initially be led by the designer; his longtime friend and collaborator Pantaleo (Leo) Dell’Orco, and Rothschild member of the board Irving Bellotti. Armani will hold this role for life.
The designer, who is also chairman of his fashion group, has channeled 0.1 percent of the capital, with a nominal value of 10 million euros, or $10.5 million, into the foundation. In addition, he has deposited 200,000 euros, or $211,158, dedicated to the foundation, of which 40,000 euros, or $42,231, will be in a Guarantee Fund that will “permanently invest in risk-free securities.”
The approach to acquisitions will have to be “cautious” and potential operations will be set in motion exclusively to develop skills that do not already exist internally.
The foundation will “pursue an adequate level of investments for the development of brands, a balanced financial management, and a moderate recourse to debt, as well as an adequate level of reinvestment of profits in the Giorgio Armani company.”
For the future of the brand, the foundation will “ensure the respect of values and principles: the management of activities in an ethical way with moral integrity and correctness, the priority of the continuous development at a global level of the Armani name, careful strategy of diversification of the company and its brands, maintaining consistency in the design of products, image and communication.”
As reported at the end of July, Armani confirmed he had established the long-rumored Giorgio Armani Foundation which, while aiming to fund social projects, also ensures that his $3 billion fashion group will live on.
“I decided to create the Giorgio Armani Foundation in order to implement projects of public and social interest,” said Armani at the time. “The foundation will also safeguard the governance assets of the Armani Group and ensure that these assets are kept stable over time, in respect of and consistent with some principles that are particularly important to me and that have always inspired my activities as a designer and an entrepreneur.
“These founding principles are based upon: autonomy and independence, an ethical approach to management with integrity and honesty, attention to innovation and excellence, an absolute priority to the continuous development of the Armani brand sustained by appropriate investments, prudent and balanced financial management, limited recourse to debt and a careful approach to acquisitions,” he added.
In a nod to questions hanging over future developments at the company he founded, Armani concluded: “With this decision, taken in the name of continuity and secured by the foundation and my heirs, I would like most of all to bring reassurance to all the people of the Armani Group who work with loyalty and passion and who have always had faith in me, as well as to all those who over the years have contributed to the long-lasting success of this company and to whom I shall forever be sincerely grateful.”
The documents deposited in Milan state that the financial capital of the foundation could be increased with additional funds from the designer, “also as a hereditary legacy or bequest.” This implies that the entire company could become part of the foundation. Third-party donations could also be made but only following the board’s approval.
The foundation comprises a chairman, a board, a surveillance board, a valuation board and a general secretary.
The foundation is forbidden from the distribution, also indirect, of profits and surpluses, which “will be used for institutional activities.”
The patrimony of the foundation comprises an endowment fund and a management fund. The latter, in addition to the sums initially deposited and their revenues, could eventually include funds supplied by other subjects and public or private institutions, as long as they are approved by the board. Resources must pursue the institutional aims of the foundation.
The first board will be in charge until the founder steps down — for any reason. Dell’Orco is expected to become chairman, and, if he is unavailable, the council will nominate a successor. The documents outlined detailed procedures to appoint councilors. For example, every three years, with the unanimous vote of the other members, one can be replaced.
The board will elect the chairman among its members, and a possible vice president.
The foundation will be able to commission research, monographs, summits, catalogues and other editorial products. It will maintain its documentary, archival and audiovisual operations for publications and public fruition. It can also participate in the creation of associations, committees and institutions as long as they have the foundation’s goals and collaborate with people, associations, public administrations, institutions, universities and academies, whether national or international. However, the foundation won’t directly sponsor companies or professional sports groups.
The foundation reflects a key priority for Armani — independence, which he has sought to maintain over the years, especially since the year 2000 when rumors about a possible sale to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton or then-Gucci Group and L’Oréal swirled around the house of Armani. While always vocal about his aversion to sell, take on a business partner or publicly list the company, rumors about Armani contemplating forming a foundation first emerged in 2012.
In 2014, Armani’s nephew Andrea Camerana, a counselor and former licensing director at his uncle’s fashion house, left his operational role, but remained on the board. Armani at the time denied any friction with Camerana, who is the son of the designer’s sister Rosanna. He was often mentioned as a possible successor to Armani as chairman of the group. Roberta Armani, who is the daughter of the designer’s late brother, Sergio, is actively involved in the company, in charge of the group’s relations with high-profile celebrities and often acting as Armani’s deputy on social occasions around the world. Armani’s niece Silvana is head of the Women’s Style Office.
Armani isn’t the first luxury or designer brand to establish a foundation. Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf set up a trust in 1944 after the death of his wife and called it the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, placing his shares in the luxury watch firm in the trust. The objective of the trust is to perpetuate the company, although it also has a mandate for charity work. It is understood the foundation’s trustees are “custodians” and not owners or shareholders, and they decide how to reinvest the profits, and hire or fire managers.
The late Geoffrey Beene, who died in 2004 at the age of 80, directed his estate to provide support for cancer research and in 2006, the company established the Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Since then, donations have exceeded $144 million. Beene’s foundation also funds 40 to 50 charities, including research for Alzheimer’s and heart disease, YMA scholarships, the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award, programs for veterans, protection of women and children and protection of animals.