Valentino Couture Spring 2020

MILAN — Mayhoola is eyeing an expansion of its fashion luxury portfolio.

While market sources for months contended that the Qatari fund was mulling a retreat from the sector, Valentino’s chief executive officer Stefano Sassi said Thursday that the Rome-based couture house is only “the starting point.” The brand’s owner, Sassi affirmed, has “no intention to sell Valentino. The rumors about a sale are not true. We want to develop this business, and Mayhoola is a long-term shareholder that is supporting our expansion and it has ambitions to increase its presence in the sector. I don’t rule out other acquisitions. Mayhoola is keeping an eye on other market opportunities.”

Perhaps the recent brisk M&A scene, including the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton acquisition of Tiffany & Co., has whetted Mayhoola’s appetite, but in any case, Sassi’s words clarified the group’s intentions, following the sale of the Anya Hindmarch brand a year ago. While Mayhoola has been successful so far with Valentino and Balmain, which it bought in 2016, building the Anya Hindmarch business proved challenging, and the company does not appear to be gaining any traction with Pal Zileri, the Italian men’s wear company, which it also acquired in 2016. This led to speculation that Mayhoola was rethinking its fashion strategy. At the same time, as reported, market sources here said the fund at one point had also been eyeing Etro, although the deal never materialized.

Once again, Sassi also waved away the option of an initial public offering of Valentino. “Mayhoola does not need cash,” he said.

While presenting a slide that showed Valentino’s growth from a 240 million euro business in 2006 when he was appointed ceo, Sassi shied away from providing any long-term guidance for the company, given the current scenario.

“It’s difficult to map out even a three-year growth project, and I blanch thinking of a five-year plan,” said the executive, speaking at a “Moda & Business” conference organized by Italy’s daily Corriere della Sera. “Overtaking the 1.5 billion euro mark would put us in a different league, in a different competitive position and that is my immediate goal,” he said.

Valentino closed 2018 with sales of 1.19 billion euros.

“My obsessive attention is to set up the organization. I have a strong affection and personal attachment to Valentino. After 14 years leading it under three different owners [Marzotto, Permira and Mayhoola], it’s as if I have seen three different Valentinos and today the level of noise is increasingly intense, there is a need to emerge and the need for human talent. We can’t work with predefined models of the past, now talent is so important, we need people with an open mind. There are less [good] people than brands and I want to be the architect of the new Valentino for the next years.”

A day earlier, Valentino had revealed that Marco Giacometti was joining the company as chief commercial officer, effective mid-April — a new role for the brand. The appointment is in line with the recent steps taken by Sassi to strengthen Valentino’s organization. As reported, Alessio Vannetti will join the couture house on March 1 as chief brand officer, also a new role within the company.

Sassi has been spearheading the re-engineering of the Valentino structure for some months now in order to strengthen the brand’s competitive advantage.

Jacopo VenturiniGucci’s former executive vice president, merchandising and markets, is said to be headed to Valentino in a top senior role, as first reported by WWD. Sources believe he will become Valentino ceo, succeeding Sassi, who is said to be moving up the ladder to oversee the various Mayhoola brands at group level.

Sassi also spoke about China and how the coronavirus could affect business. “China is expected to continue to grow in the medium, long-term,” he said, while admitting the medical emergency is “heavily impacting consumer spending. Many malls are closed, they have passed from two shifts to one, there is no traffic. Since the middle of January, all of the fashion industry has been impacted.”

Sassi believes “if this is an episode, it will not change our strategies. We are not worried yet for the long-term, but of course let’s hope it will pass. The industry is healthy and it continues to grow.”