PARIS — Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah, one of the Middle East’s most high-profile retail figures, is stepping down as chairman and creative director of Villa Moda Lifestyle, WWD has learned.

This story first appeared in the September 2, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

According to market sources, Al-Sabah could reveal his resignation as early as today, following frustrations with Villa Moda’s new owner, the Dubai International Financial Center.

The DIFC, which is owned by the Dubai government, took a majority stake in Villa Moda last September and trumpeted ambitions to go global with the retail banner. Instead, sources said, the DIFC fell behind on day-to-day operations, financial reporting and a complicated consolidation. Trading of shares of Villa Moda, quoted on the Kuwait Stock Exchange, has been suspended since April.

Market sources recently estimated annual revenues at Villa Moda to be in excess of 60 million euros, or $86.3 million at current exchange rates.

A member of the Kuwaiti royal family and a cheerleader for the Gulf region’s business potential, Al-Sabah opened his first fashion store in Kuwait City in 1992. In 2002, he christened a 75,000-square-foot Villa Moda emporium and flew the likes of Stella McCartney, Domenico De Sole and Bloomingdale’s late Kal Ruttenstein to join him for a sumptuous celebration featuring everything from camel rides and fireworks to luncheons with society women.

Since then, Al-Sabah has been a front-row fixture at European shows and has expanded his footprint across the Middle East, experimenting with souklike retail concepts and tapping cutting-edge industrial designers.

Today, there are Villa Moda locations in Qatar, Bahrain, Dubai and Syria, along with some 40 flagships for a range of European brands, including Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Dries Van Noten, Marni and Yves Saint Laurent.

Al-Sabah, who has recently dabbled in real estate and contemporary art ventures, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

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