MILAN — Roberto Cavalli has tapped Robert Donofrio as chief executive officer of its U.S. subsidiary.

This story first appeared in the January 11, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The position is a new one and fits with the company’s new management structure and strategy to further develop the brand globally. It follows the announcement in September that Gianluca Brozzetti and Carlo Di Biagio had joined Cavalli as ceo and chief operating officer, respectively.

“The appointment of Robert Donofrio in the U.S. continues the program of building a professional management team to ensure further growth of my group,” Cavalli told WWD. “I particularly love the U.S. market. Its energy is very close to my sensibility.” The designer said he was “sure” the executive will help “maximize all opportunities in one of the most important markets” for fashion and luxury products.

Donofrio told WWD exclusively that he was “attracted to Roberto Cavalli first and foremost because it’s a real brand with a real soul. It has so many opportunities, and yes, I do believe it has huge opportunities for expansion and growth.”

In addition, he said upon meeting the designer, he was “struck by the depth of his passion and commitment to the brand, and for me that was the deciding factor.” Looking ahead, Donofrio said their “goals are to build the brand, whose awareness is at this point much bigger than its business.”

Donofrio declined to disclose the brand’s revenues in the U.S.

In December, Cavalli opened a 10,000-square-foot boutique at the Crystals at CityCenter in Las Vegas. Other stores in the U.S. are located in New York, Bal Harbour, Dallas, Beverly Hills, Costa Mesa and Woodbury. The brand is also available at 76 department store doors and 21 specialty stores in America. “We plan to grow our business by increasing the points of sale through our directly operated stores, department stores and our relationships with multibrand stores as well as by expanding categories such as fragrance and accessories,” said Donofrio.

Donofrio was previously ceo at Asprey and Garrard USA and was instrumental in restructuring A&G’s American operations. Prior to that, he was executive vice president and general manager at Bulgari Corp. of America. Brozzetti also held senior positions at Asprey and Bulgari. “Gianluca Brozzetti and I have known each other for more than 20 years,” said Donofrio. “Together, we grew the Bulgari business from a boutique at the Pierre through its expansion to department stores and growth of its fragrance division, all in the context of a family-owned business. At Asprey my focus was on restructuring the business during a difficult time.”

Through his own consultancy company, RAD New York, Donofrio has collaborated with brands such as The Movado Group, Trussardi SpA, William Goldberg Diamond Corp., Kieselstein-Cord International, Marina B, Canturi Jewellers and Enigma Jewels.

In September, Cavalli said putting in place a strong management team was an alternative to selling a stake in his company to investors, which he had been mulling the past few seasons and which he “had put aside for now.” The year 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of the designer’s brand.

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