GUCCI STILL QUIET OVER REPORTS IT IS CLOSE TO PURCHASE OF FENDI

MILAN — Gucci remained mum Thursday after yet another report emerged that it was close to buying Fendi.
A Gucci spokesman declined to comment on the latest salvo — to be published today by the Italian financial weekly Il Mondo — that says Gucci chairman and chief executive officer Domenico De Sole has convinced four of the five Fendi sisters to sell him their stake in the company.
As reported, all five sisters must agree to sell the core company, Fendi Paola e Sorelle Sas, to the same buyer if a deal is to be successful. Il Mondo published a report earlier this month saying De Sole had convinced two of the sisters — Carla and Anna — to hand their shares over to him. Fendi’s spokeswoman could not be reached for comment Thursday; the company has repeatedly declined to comment on rumors about a sale.
According to Il Mondo, both Paola and Alda Fendi have agreed to sell their shares to De Sole; the holdout is Franca, said to favor another suitor, Texas Pacific Group, because it is reportedly the only potential partner that would make sure her children, Guido and Andrea Formilli, keep their managerial jobs.
Earlier this week, industry sources told WWD that TPG’s interest in Fendi was cooling quickly because the sisters could not agree about a sale and the price was too high.
Prada’s Patrizio Bertelli, who recently announced plans to purchase Jil Sander and Church’s, is also said to be looking at Fendi.
Bulgari, the luxury jeweler based in Rome, has also expressed its interest in the company.
Il Mondo — which belongs to Rizzoli Corriere della Sera, the publishing group owned by Italy’s giant Holding di Partecipazioni Industriali, also the owner of fashion companies GFT, Valentino and Fila — said De Sole was willing to offer each sister about $162 million.
As reported, Gucci’s aim is to form a major international luxury goods group using the $3 billion cash injection it received from its new partner, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute.
Industry sources said De Sole was the highest bidder and the sisters would be unwise not to sell to him. “The sisters have been seriously evaluating offers for more than a year now. They don’t need the money personally, and they don’t need it to grow the business. But this is Fendi’s moment, and they shouldn’t miss the opportunity to sell,” said one source close to Fendi.