LONDON — Vittorio Radice is back in the retail game with a mandate to revitalize La Rinascente, Italy’s sleepy department store chain.

Radice, 48, who cut his teeth as managing director of Habitat U.K. and made his name transforming the once-staid Selfridges into a hot retail property, has been named chief executive officer of La Rinascente.

The department store chain was acquired earlier this year by a consortium led by the Borletti family for 888 million euros, or $1.15 billion. The consortium, Tamerice Srl, purchased the retailer from Eurofind Textile SA, a Luxembourg-based company.

Maurizio Borletti, 37, has been named chairman. He was formerly chairman of Luxury Brand Development, an acquisitions vehicle for the luxury goods sector. Before that, he was chairman and ceo of the French silver company Christofle, which his family acquired in 1993, relaunched and listed on the Paris stock exchange in 1999.

La Rinascente is a retail institution in Italy, with branches in most major cities and a flagship in Milan, next to the Duomo.

The store, founded in the 1860s, sells everything from jewelry to cosmetics to clothing and home furnishings, much of it under private label. While the quality of the products at Italy’s 19 La Rinascente stores always has been good, the retail environment is severely outdated.

Radice and the new management team plan to change that.

A source close to the new management said the store plans to “trade up,” and the goal is to catapult La Rinascente to the level of stores such as Selfridges and Neiman Marcus. “They want Vittorio to turn it into a destination, a place where people will want to go for pleasure — and for shopping,” the source said.

In a statement released Friday, Radice called La Rinascente “part and parcel of Italian tradition and history. I hope my international background helps us to reach quickly the ambitious objectives we have set [for] ourselves.”

He added the new Rinascente would be “a spacious meeting place that appeals to both customers and visitors, where people can shop and take a breather from their daily trials and tribulations, relaxing in pleasant, plush surroundings.”

This story first appeared in the May 9, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Radice’s appointment comes 11 months after he quit a top management post at Marks & Spencer, where he spearheaded a home furnishings project called Lifestore. Radice, who was executive director for general merchandise and responsible for clothing, home and store development, walked out after new management moved into M&S after an attempted takeover by retail tycoon Philip Green. The Lifestore project was terminated a few months after his departure.

During his tenure at Selfridges, Radice often described his vision of department stores as “places where the noise is louder, the colors are brighter and where there is always the new and unexpected — places that innovate and excite.”

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