Fendi Casa Thea outdoor armchair.

MILAN — Luxury Living Group has found a lifeline.

Lifestyle Design (Poltrona Frau Group) together with Haworth Inc. have acquired the storied Italian furniture and interiors design company.

The transaction will be made through the Michigan-based company’s Italian subsidiary, Haworth Italy Holding, while Luxury Living Group will operate under the Lifestyle Design Division, with brands including Cappellini, Cassina, Ceccotti, Dzine, Karakter, Janus et Cie, Luminaire and Poltrona Frau.

Over the last 30 years, Luxury Living has produced and distributed high-end designs under licensing agreements with the likes of Fendi Casa, Bentley Home, Trussardi Casa and Bugatti Home, as well as its own Luxury Living brand.

With revenues of 90 million euros and about 250 employees, Luxury Living in June had filed a petition for a composition with creditors.

Luxury Living was founded by Alberto Vignatelli, president and chief executive officer, who died in 2017 at age 75.

“We have long believed in the opportunity and potential of creating a pole of licenses with luxury brands,” Dario Rinero, ceo of Lifestyle Design, told WWD, pointing to Luxottica in the eyewear segment as an example. With Poltrona Frau, Lifestyle Design has collaborated with Bottega Veneta and, for a few years, with Versace. “We realized there already was an operator adopting that model with quality products, and that was Luxury Living. We had courted Alberto Vignatelli for a while, to no avail though.”

Rinero said he could not disclose the amount paid for Luxury Living, which had been weighed down by financial difficulties, worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. While mulling the idea of a merger for years, Rinero emphasized the deal was now signed with a different view on things. “We feel we can help a great group that has a strong potential. We are sure it will restart and return to the precrisis levels, further expanding.”

For comparison, in 2017 the company registered sales of 120 million euros. Rinero said he was convinced Luxury Living only needed a chance to operate within a solid and larger group. The deal is also “a sign of optimism and positivity for the country,” he added.

Vignatelli kicked off his entrepreneurial career in the interior design sector in 1960 in Forlì, Italy and in 1988 he  teamed with the late Carla Fendi to launch the Fendi Casa line. “I was genuinely impressed by his qualities, typical of the best Italian entrepreneurship: dream, vision, effective planning and determination, resilience, inner strength,” said Rinero of Vignatelli, praising “his team of qualified and motivated people, representing today the most important enterprise value.”

Following the acquisition, his wife Olga Shvilli Vignatelli, who helped develop the company globally, will retain her role as vice president and brand ambassador of the group. She praised Lifestyle Design as “solid and farsighted,” underscoring how “each one of the acquired companies has preserved and fed its identity, the founders continue to contribute to their development and the financial strength of the group has allowed investing in new stores and plants. I therefore trust that with Luxury Living as well we will soon develop important synergies and system efficiencies,” securing its uniqueness and prospering in the future.

Luxury Living, helmed by ceo Renato Preti, mainly operates through a worldwide network of 80 retailers along with seven directly owned stores in Milan, Forlì, Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Miami. The group is also planning the reopening of the London store and two flagships in Shanghai and San Francisco in 2021.

China is Luxury Living’s main market, accounting for almost 50 percent of sales, Rinero said. Exports represent 95 percent of business.

The licensing business will continue to be strategically very important, the executive said. “The idea is to focus on a few licenses with great potential, rather than many in number but small. This is a very complex business and we must work closely with each maison.” He touted Haworth’s “simple but efficient business model,” which allows each company to be independent, supported by the parent group’s financial muscle and strategic lead. “There are efficient synergies at work, but the distinctiveness of each brand is fully respected.”

Asked about the impact of COVID-19 on people’s wish to invest more in their personal surroundings, Rinero said many are “rediscovering their homes and are inspired with a desire to improve and evolve them by the lockdown. We will need another five or six months before we all understand what has happened, but many observers believe that people will eat out much less and entertain more at home. All this has generated interest in our sector and, although its performance is below last year’s, we are moderately confident.”

Haworth was founded in 1948 by the namesake family, whose third generation still owns the company. It manufactures flexible and sustainable workspaces, with products includes movable walls, systems furniture, chairs, floating floors and communication technologies. The company had been a partner of high-end furnishing company Poltrona Frau SpA for North America since 2011.

In 2014, Haworth took control of Poltrona Frau from shareholders Charme Investments Ltd. and Moschini Srl, and delisted the firm.

Lifestyle Design’s revenues exceed 500 million euros and it counts 1,800 employees, representing today one of the largest groups operating in this field.

Haworth’s sales total more than $2 billion.

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