Borsalino men's Spring/Summer 2019 collection

MILAN — “The goal is wake it up and shake it,” said Philippe Camperio, executive chairman of Haeres Equita, referring to the Borsalino brand.

On Thursday, the private equity group won the auction led by Borsalino’s administrators for the acquisition of a range of the hat maker’s assets, including the manufacturing capabilities and 10 monobrand stores, seven of them directly operated by the company.

Haeres Equita, which offered a sum of 6.4 million euros, already owns the right to use the name of the brand, acquired in July 2017 from bank Mediocredito for a sum of 18 million euros.

Winning the auction, Haeres Equita is at the end of a long and troubled journey that started in December 2015. Back then, the private equity filed an offer and, along with presenting a business plan, it also deposited 15.5 million euros to start covering Borsalino’s debts. This allowed Haeres Equita to take over the firm’s management and operations by renting the company in 2016.

Although Haeres Equita quickly started restructuring and reorganizing the company with positive results, in December 2016 its composition plan was rejected by the two administrators selected by the court of Alessandria, Italy, where Borsalino is based. However, they allowed the fund to prolong the rental of the company, which by Italian law is a necessary step, until the end of July 2018.

Borsalino, which was established in 1857, was hit by financial problems in 2015, when previous owner Marco Marenco was arrested in Lugano, Switzerland, at the end of April that year. He had been wanted by the police since the previous summer for fraudulent bankruptcy and tax evasion related to a web of holdings, mainly in gas and energy, for a total worth of 3.5 billion euros.

“It took three years to buy and save the company, which is a lot, but if we look back we actually achieved what we targeted three years ago,” said Camperio, who despite the difficulties never lost confidence in the value of the project and in the actual potential of the Borsalino label.

Internationalization will be instrumental to the growth of the brand, according to Camperio, who pointed at Japan and the United States as the most appealing markets for Borsalino.

In particular, the company, which closed 2017 with revenues of 17.5 million euros, in line with the previous year, will start directly distributing its collections in Japan starting this summer.

“Borsalino used to sell about one million hats a year in the United States. Our goal is to sell one million hats a year only in the Upper East Side,” touted Camperio, referring to the huge opportunities he sees in the U.S. market, where the company aims to sell in hat shops as well as in department stores and fashion specialty retailers.

While Camperio revealed that in the next five years he expects the brand’s production to increase five times on a yearly basis, and the number of employees focused on manufacturing products will increase between five and 10 percent a year, the plan is to open one store annually.

The retail expansion strategy is expected to begin at the end of 2019 with the opening of a flagship in New York. In addition, by the end of September, Borsalino will launch a new directly operated e-commerce. Currently, online sales account for 5 percent of the label’s total business.

Along with fully refreshing and rejuvenating its product offering — also with the introduction of capsule collections developed in collaboration with brands, designers and artists — Borsalino aims to expand its women’s business, which currently accounts for 30 percent of the company’s total sales.

Asked about a potential initial public offering, Camperio responded: “Most probably. Being listed allows faster and more sustainable growth.” The IPO, he added, could take place on the AIM markets for smaller companies in Milan and London.

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