MARZOTTO, IT HOLDING EYE DEAL

Byline: Luisa Zargani

MILAN — With Valentino finally safe in Marzotto’s pocket, talk here is turning to a possible barter deal between Marzotto and IT Holding, which owns Gianfranco Ferre SpA.
Industry sources say that under the terms of an agreement, Marzotto would retain production of the licensed Gianfranco Ferre Studio line, splitting it into diffusion and ready-to-wear lines called Collezioni and Black Label, respectively, and IT Holding would produce a new Valentino jeans and sportswear line. As reported, Ferre will be integrated into IT’s corporate structure this year, and Valentino was purchased last month by Marzotto. Ferre Studio, Gieffeffe and Forma are licensed to Marzotto until 2003.
“We will work with Marzotto, if the opportunity arises,” said Massimo Brunelli, managing director of IT Holding, during an analysts’ presentation on the company Monday.
Roland Bohler, Ferre’s chief executive officer, was notably absent from both the presentation and the gala IT Holding held last week in honor of Ferre, fueling speculation that Bohler has left the company. A Ferre spokesman denied the rumor, saying Bohler was “traveling on business.” The only comment Brunelli offered was that Tonino Perna, chairman of IT Holding and vice president of Ferre, will be “actively and increasingly involved” in the management of Ferre.
During the presentation, Brunelli outlined IT Holding’s strategies for the next five years. These include the launch of a jewelry line in 2003, a joint venture with a leather goods production company and the vertical integration of Ferre, which was purchased for $140.7 million (dollar figures are converted from euros at current exchange rates). “We plan to exploit our industrial platforms to extract the full potential of the Ferre brand,” said Brunelli. At the same time, IT Holding will focus on retailing the brand, opening 12 Ferre franchised stores and two directly operated stores by 2005. “The new concept stores will be a model for the redecorating of the existing 30 Ferre boutiques,” said Brunelli. IT Holding plans to open a boutique in Paris and one in the Far East, among other places. Vittorio Notarpietro, finance director at IT Holding, said there were opportunities to grow Ferre by internalizing licenses and expanding sales in Italy and the U.S., which currently account for 6 and 5 percent of sales, respectively. As reported, Ferre posted sales of $44.8 million last year. Revenues derived from licenses were $17.5 million. Apparel accounted for 59 percent of this figure, eyewear for 12 percent, fragrances for 4 percent and accessories for 3 percent. Other categories accounted for 22 percent. IT Holding owns eyewear manufacturer Allison and last year created ITF, a majority-owned joint venture to produce fragrances. In addition, it owns production facilities including Ittierre and ITC, the former Dei Mattioli plants, for high-end rtw.
Notarpietro said that, while Europe accounts for 34 percent of sales and Japan generates 33 percent, Italy and the U.S. are still small markets for Ferre. “We plan to grow the U.S. market in the next five years, so that it will contribute to one-third of the company’s business.”
He said Ferre himself, who still holds a 10 percent share, will be pivotal. “He created the company, which still needs his design and style,” Notarpietro said.
IT Holding, based in Isernia, also owns Ittierre, Romeo Gigli, Mac Malo, Exte and Gentry Portofino. The company registered an average 21 percent growth over the last nine years, totaling sales of $463.5 million in 2001. Brunelli said IT Holding hopes to double sales in the next four years and to reach the $1 billion mark.
While the Ittierre unit last month renewed its license for Versace’s Versus, Jeans Couture and Jeans Signature labels, Brunelli said Monday it’s in talks with Dolce & Gabbana to renew the D&G license, which expires with the fall 2003 collection.

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