PARIS — Could Lanvin’s majority owner Shaw-Lan Wang be mulling a sale of the company?
This story first appeared in the March 24, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
According to market sources, the Taiwanese publishing magnate recently made an informal approach to a high-powered family in Asia about possibly selling her stake. It is understood no formal talks ensued.
Separately, a number of investment banks, seizing on market speculation about a possible ownership change, have also made unofficial overtures to some of the usual serial acquirers, believed to include Valentino owner Mayhoola for Investments SPC, French luxury groups Kering and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and Chinese companies that have invested in fashion.
No formal sale mandate has been granted and no due diligence has been conducted, these sources caution, characterizing Wang as a reluctant seller likely to handpick the best possible suitor.
An additional hurdle to any deal could be the high valuation Wang is likely to seek for her controlling stake in one of France’s oldest and most revered fashion houses.
Asked for comment about the latest sale rumors, Lanvin said, “Madame Wang has received expressions of interest to acquire Lanvin, as in the past years, but she didn’t respond.”
The intensely private 73-year-old has in the past described Lanvin as a long-term investment, having recruited acclaimed Israeli designer Alber Elbaz in 2001 to rejuvenate the brand and taking a hands-on approach to its development in Asia.
Yet the executive has been spending less time in Paris recently, leaving the operational management to Michèle Huiban, who was named chief executive officer in 2013. Huiban, who joined Lanvin in 2008, had been deputy general manager of the company since 2011. She is a graduate of French business school ESSEC and worked mainly in the media before joining Lanvin.
According to sources, Wang has been reluctant to invest heavily in developing the French house’s retail network and brand profile, crimping its traction in the face of larger and more robustly funded brands such as Saint Laurent, Chanel and Givenchy.
A family trust associated with the Bartel family acquired 25 percent of Lanvin parent Arpège SAS in separate transactions in 2009 and 2012, and is said to hold certain preemptive rights should Wang wish to explore a sale of any of her shares.
Elbaz is said to also own a minority stake in Lanvin indirectly via a holding company.
“It’s a very fluid situation. My guess is something will happen this year,” said one source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Wang bought Lanvin from L’Oréal in 2001, and left Elbaz a free hand to reinvent the business with his soigné cocktail dresses, chunky costume jewelry, ballerina flats, dressy sneakers and modernist men’s wear.
In 2007, Wang sold Lanvin’s fragrance and cosmetics business to Inter Parfums SA for 22 million euros, or $32.1 million at average exchange rates for the period, saying the company needed the funds to develop its ready-to-wear and accessories businesses.
It is understood Lanvin generates sales of slightly less than 250 million euros, or $262.5 million at current exchange rates. Last year the brand marked its 125th anniversary, with a “Jeanne Lanvin” retrospective currently on display at the Palais Galliera — a spillover of its birthday festivities.