MILAN — A hearing of the Matteo Marzotto tax trial on Friday put the spotlight on family conflicts and deep-seated disagreements over what was to be the future course of Valentino.
“Matteo was strongly against the sale of Valentino,” said Riccardo Boatto, whose friendship with Marzotto and his sister Diamante, also a defendant in the case, dates back to childhood. “He was always working a lot and constantly traveling and delegated executive management to his brother Vittorio,” recalled Boatto of the time when Marzotto was president of the fashion brand. “It was a very important position for him. He bought Valentino when it was losing money, and it’s also thanks to him that it turned into a success. I remember very well, he was very attached to Valentino, it meant a lot to him.”
Boatto said Marzotto wanted to do a “bella figura,” employing a typical Italian expression that translates into making a good impression, underscoring the young entrepreneur’s status as president of the company — a position he would lose with the sale. “He was perplexed and negative about this wish of the other shareholders to sell, he would have preferred to continue,” remarked Boatto, who was married to Marzotto’s late sister, Annalisa.
International Capital Growth — the firm that Italy’s tax police believes to be a fictitious entity based in Luxembourg and managed in Milan, which was allegedly created for the purpose of selling 29.9 percent of the Valentino group — was set up “to form a qualified majority to contrast Canova, a majority shareholder in the brand, and [then-chairman of Valentino Fashion Group Antonio] Favrin, who also had shares in Valentino Fashion Group through Canova [and wanted to sell],” said Boatto.
Favrin, a longtime executive of the Marzotto companies, and Matteo Marzotto clashed over the “strategic vision. There is bad blood between them,” he said.
He observed that when Valentino was sold, “Matteo was not even there. He [himself] did not sell, he delegated his brother [Vittorio] to manage the firm and found out about the sale after the fact.”
Responding to prosecutor Gaetano Ruta, questioning whether Marzotto did not know about the sale, Boatto said “Matteo knew that someone wanted to buy Valentino,” but did not know the particulars, the timing or the buyer. “That he resented it is to say the least,” continued Boatto, adding that Marzotto is no longer involved in any of the family companies, nor does he talk to his brother Vittorio or to former shareholder Andrea Donà Delle Rose, who sided with Favrin. As for ICG, Boatto said “Matteo told me he did not manage it nor had he any responsibility in it.”
Boatto also underscored that Diamante Marzotto had never managed any company, including Valentino, delegating her father Umberto and then her brother Vittorio, the eldest of the siblings. “She married very young, she has four children plus two adopted ones and lives in [Italy’s] Ravenna, she never even attended a board meeting.”
Another friend of Matteo Marzotto, Ivano Taccori, recalled how he was told about the Valentino deal. “He called me on a Sunday morning to say he was coming over for lunch, and that doesn’t happen often — he is usually out of town on weekends. He arrived and told me with watery eyes, ‘They have decided to sell Valentino.’ He was young, in his 40s, overseeing a company that he had re-invented, which was in difficulty and is now the most famous brand in the world. He was totally against selling it.”
Asked by Ruta about his stance, Taccori shrugged and said that Marzotto could do little at that time against the other shareholders, describing him with an expression similar to cannon fodder.
Earlier in the afternoon, professor and lawyer Agostino Gambino recalled how he was contacted by Donà Delle Rose to draw up the papers to sell Valentino, first following transactions with The Carlyle Group, then shortly after with private equity fund Permira, which eventually succeeded in acquiring Valentino Fashion Group, trumping the other party’s offer, and paying more than 782 million euros, or $839 million, in May 2007.
According to the indictment, taxes on the profit derived from the transaction were never paid in Italy. The other defendants are Bart Zech, administrator of the board of ICG; real estate entrepreneur Massimo Caputi, and Pierre Kladny, president of the board of ICG.
The next hearing is scheduled for May 22.