Christian Lacroix

Workers at Christian Lacroix breathed a sigh of relief as as an Ajman sheikh tabled a formal offer to purchase the troubled couture house.

PARIS — Workers at Christian Lacroix, which is in administration, breathed a sigh of relief Thursday as an Ajman sheikh tabled a formal offer to purchase the troubled couture house.

This story first appeared in the October 9, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The offer from Al Hassan Bin Ali Al Nuaimi, in cooperation with the couturier, must still meet the approval of the commercial court here. However, the Paris administrator told Agence France Press it is “likely” to meet approval because it would preserve jobs and pay third-party debts. A date for a hearing has yet to be fixed, but is expected around Oct. 20. It is understood Bernard Krief Consulting and Financière Saint-Germain also have submitted bids.

If the sheikh’s offer prevails, it would see ownership pass from Florida’s Falic Group to a nephew of the ruling emir of Ajman, the smallest of the seven emirates comprising the United Arab Emirates.

According to sources, the sheikh is involved in a variety of business, including finance, real estate, resort development and yachting.

“The Falics are pleased to have Sheikh Al Hassan Bin Ali Al Nuaimi bring his resources and his vision to the Christian Lacroix brand,” said Nicolas Topiol, Lacroix’s chief executive officer. He added that Al Nuaimi would “further develop and promote the work and effort the Falics have initiated to create a pure luxury brand.”

The sheikh’s law firm, Paris-based François & Associates, confirmed the offer had been submitted to administrator Regis Valliot and that it corresponds to the “selective positioning and luxury of the brand.”

Lawyer Diane François told WWD that Al Nuaimi’s intention is to provide the capital needed to develop the business and bolster Lacroix’s positioning. Investments, depending on the level of funding required, could reach “close to 100 million euros,” or about $147 million at current exchange, she said.

The Falics had initiated an upscaling drive at Lacroix that coincided with the global economic crisis, and a steep drop in sales drove the company deeply into the red. In May, Lacroix was forced to seek protection from creditors, reflecting the vulnerability of wholesale-dependent brands amid a sharp downturn in luxury spending.

Best known for its Duty Free Americas chain, Falic Group acquired Lacroix in 2005 from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which launched a couture house for Lacroix in 1987.

Lacroix could not be reached for comment Thursday. Paris Fashion Week wound up Thursday without the designer presenting a collection for the first time in decades.

Lacroix’s bankruptcy filing imperiled one of France’s most acclaimed couturiers, whose pouf skirts and Baroque dresses were greeted with applause, yet failed to translate into a profitable business. Recently, annual losses at Lacroix rose to about 10 million euros, or $14 million, on revenues that have declined to an estimated 30 million euros, or $42 million.

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