GUCCI, BALENCIAGA DEAL CLOSE?
Byline: Bridget Foley
NEW YORK — The Gucci empire is on the verge of its next big move. The conglomerate could close a deal for the purchase of the house of Balenciaga — and the coveted services of Nicholas Ghesquiere, arguably the hottest name in fashion — as early as today.
Such a deal would end months of speculation about a possible Gucci-Ghesquiere deal. The designer would make the third major young talent to enter the Gucci fold since spring, joining Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney.
Sources said that no deal had been signed as of late Thursday, but that discussions would go on into the night.
Talk of Gucci’s interest in Balenciaga and Ghesquiere was first reported in WWD Jan. 19. At one point, it appeared that Gucci had wanted to secure the designer himself, and back a signature collection. Apparently, however, he was unwilling to jump the Balenciaga ship on which he sailed to fame, which spurred interest in the bigger deal.
Ghesquiere’s arrival at Balenciaga was remarkably low-key by today’s standards: He signed on as a freelancer to design uniforms and wedding dresses for the Japanese market, but as his talents became apparent, he took on increased responsibility. Since his first show for the venerable French house in 1997, he has rejuvenated it with lean, cutting-edge designs, inspiring thousands of knockoffs along the way.
Balenciaga is owned by Group Jacques Bogart, controlled by the French entrepreneur Jacques Konckier and his family. Gucci Group has had its checkbook open since the $3 billion cash infusion in 1999 from strategic partner Pinault Printemps Redoute, its white knight in the hostile takeover battle with archrival LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
The group has been rapidly amassing brands for its portfolio. Besides the Gucci brand, it now owns Yves Saint Laurent, the YSL and Roger & Gallet beauty brands, Bottega Veneta, Sergio Rossi, Boucheron and watchmaker Bedat & Co.