Roberto Cavalli

MILAN — Who will be the new owner of Roberto Cavalli? And could Philipp Plein finally emerge as the winner?

These are two recurring questions as the deadline to submit offers for a minority or a majority stake in the Roberto Cavalli firm was set for Jan. 31. However, sources say the deadline is flexible and bound to be extended into the first few days of February.

A Milan-based source said a Cavalli board meeting is expected to be scheduled in 10 days to evaluate the offers. Designer Philipp Plein is rumored to be especially keen to take control of the brand and eyeing to overhaul it, leaving his own mark on the label.

One source said Plein is “obsessed” with the brand. “It’s not surprising, he is the true heir of [founder] Roberto Cavalli, he shares his same lifestyle” and jet-set attitude, transposed to the Aughts, said the source.

To be sure, there are echos of the flamboyant Cavalli on Plein’s Instagram account. The designer, who is marking the 20th anniversary of his namesake brand this year, regularly posts photos of himself on his private plane or with his luxury cars.

Philipp Plein

Philipp Plein on his plane.  courtesy image

He posts photos of his brands, which include Plein Sport and Billionaire, and does not shy away from flashing his possessions, such as a diamond-studded Audemars Piguet.

Philipp Plein

Philipp Plein’s Audemars Piguet watch.  courtesy image

Plein’s company is also at the center of mergers and acquisitions speculation, with investors said to range from Permira to Carlyle circling the German designer’s fashion house. In one post, Plein scoffed at a Il Sole 24 Ore daily’s report in December that the company could be sold for 700 million euros. “I know what I bring to the table……..for this amount I do not even sit at the table to discuss,” he wrote.

Philipp Plein

Philipp Plein rebuffed the idea that his company could be valued at 700 million euros.  Courtesy image

In December, as reported, market sources contended that around 10 “interested parties” had made contact with Rothschild, the adviser tapped by Cavalli’s owner, Italian private equity fund Clessidra SGR, to find a buyer for a stake in the company.

Renzo Rosso’s OTB group, parent of brands such as Diesel and Maison Margiela, was said to have also been interested and “made contact,” but sources said the group may have not actually submitted an offer. OTB’s Staff International is Just Cavalli’s licensee.

Sources say Tapestry Inc., parent company of Coach, Stuart Weitzman and Kate Spade, also has looked at Cavalli’s dossier, without submitting an offer. As reported, Tapestry may be eyeing possible M&A targets and has not ruled out looking overseas for the company’s next transaction.

An unidentified Chinese fund is also said to be interested.

Clessidra on Thursday had no comment on the speculation regarding Cavalli.

Clessidra took control of Cavalli in 2015, but has been looking to exit the fashion business, according to sources. In May 2016, Italmobiliare SpA, the publicly listed investment group owned by the Pesenti family took control of Clessidra for roughly 20 million euros. Italmobiliare holds and manages a diversified portfolio of investments and equity interests worth more than 2 billion euros.

Chief executive officer Gian Giacomo Ferraris has spearheaded the turnaround of Cavalli since his arrival in May 2016. Last month, presenting a new residential project in Bahrain, Ferraris said the company needs further investments to compete in the current scenario. The brand is designed by Paul Surridge.

In 2017, Cavalli revenues were down 1.8 percent to 152.4 million euros, compared with 155.2 million euros in 2016.

When Clessidra bought Cavalli, financial details were not disclosed, but market sources estimated that the brand was purchased for between 380 million euros and 400 million euros. The deal was completed by a new company called Varenne, controlled by Clessidra, but including L-GAM and Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd.

Founder and designer Roberto Cavalli himself retains a 10 percent stake in the firm, but he has eased out of the fashion industry.

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