Golden Goose London Flagship

MILAN — The Carlyle Group is emerging as the front-runner in the race to acquire a majority stake in accessible luxury fashion company Golden Goose Deluxe Brand, WWD has learned.

According to a well-placed market source, the private equity fund is placing around 400 million euros, or $425 million at current exchange rate, on the plate. As reported, mid-market investment company Ergon Capital Partners II, which acquired a majority stake in Golden Goose in 2015, is eyeing an exit.

Roberta Benaglia, chief executive officer of private equity fund Style Capital, which holds a minority stake in the Italian brand, is expected to remain at the helm of Golden Goose after the sale.

Permira and General Atlantic are also interested in investing in the brand founded by creative directors Alessandro Gallo and Francesca Rinaldo. The closing of the competitive process is scheduled for Feb. 10.

Contacted on Friday, Benaglia firmly denied the rumor about a potential closing with Carlyle, while the investment firm declined to comment.

Golden Goose generates revenues of 100 million euros, or $106 million, and operating margins of 32 million euros, or $34 million.

The brand is available at 750 multibrand stores around the world, of which 250 are in Italy.

The U.S. generate revenues of 10 million euros, or $10.6 million, and represent the fastest-growing market for Golden Goose. “We expect to reach revenues of 15 million euros [$15.6 million] in 2017 and 30 million [$31.2 million] in three years,” said Benaglia, during an interview with WWD last December.

The brand will open a second store in New York, on Madison Avenue, in the first quarter of 2017, as well as a flagship in the Los Angeles Melrose area. A unit in Miami is expected to be unveiled in the second half of 2017, while the brand is looking for locations in San Francisco, Dallas and Houston.

Golden Goose is also rapidly expanding in the Far East. The brand, which already manages 18 shops-in-shop in South Korea, expects to open 12 more within three years; one will open at Shanghai’s Plaza 66 in January. The brand already operates a door in China, where it unveiled a store at the Taikoo Li Sanlitun shopping mall in Beijing in December.

While the company will limit distribution in Italy to maintain exclusivity, Benaglia said Golden Goose will expand its business across Germany, France, the Benelux and the Scandinavian countries.

Among its investments, Carlyle Group controls 90 percent of Twin-Set, an Italian fashion company founded by Simona Barbieri, who is creative director of the brand, as well as Dutch lingerie firm Hunkemöller International B.V.