MILAN — Sources here say IT Holding is close to signing an agreement to sell its Romeo Gigli business to Go & Create Investment, a Luxembourg-based investor group.
A spokeswoman at IT Holding, a public company listed on the Milan Stock Exchange, said the group does not comment on rumors, while Go & Create investors could not be reached.
In June, Go & Create acquired Maska from Cerruti parent Fin.part for $30.3 million. Go & Create is among the latest investment funds emerging in Italy, together with the Arpels group, which took control of Alessandro Dell’Acqua and Bologna-based leather goods firm Redwall, which produces clothing and accessories brands Borbonese and Redwall; Charme, which counts investors such as Ferrari chief executive Luca di Montezemolo and Tod’s chief Diego Della Valle, and Equinox Investment, which this year took a 45 percent stake in English footwear brand Church’s.
While one source said that “the combination of Maska’s strong manufacturing units and industrial structure with a designer label could turn out to be very productive,” another viewed the arrangement as “purely financial.”
IT Holding acquired the Gigli name for $33.3 million in 1999, a pivotal year for IT Holding president Tonino Perna, who started on an acquisition spree to create a luxury conglomerate. Gigli was the first designer of the group, which has since grown to include Gianfranco Ferré, Malo and Gentry Portofino.
One source said that the sale of Gigli will help IT Holding honor the deadline of a three-year $174.1 million bond issued in 2002, and that Perna is focusing on the more profitable businesses of the group.
“The line is not a high-volume business and the collections were very intellectual and hard to sell, with excessive details and difficult fittings and shapes,” the source said.
Gigli has his supporters in retail circles, however. Rosi Biffi, owner of the boutique bearing her name, said Gigli “created a new kind of fashion that had never been done before, with new egg-shaped designs and very small shoulders.” Biffi praised the designer’s fabrics research and innovation in the use of “typically Indian colors.”
A fashion analyst here estimated that Gigli’s business currently amounts to about $25 million.
This is the latest step in Gigli’s tumultuous history. IT Holding acquired Gigli from EVCH III, a Geneva-based closed-end investment fund that rescued the designer’s fashion house from financial collapse in 1997.
Gigli launched his first signature collection in 1985 and also designed the Callaghan line from 1986 to 1994, succeeding Gianni Versace.