MILAN — With less than a month before Prada Group kicks off the road show for its highly anticipated initial public offering, chief executive officer Patrizio Bertelli is looking to beef up the company’s board with executives from outside the Prada family.

This story first appeared in the June 13, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The move, designed to woo investors with more independent management, is fueling speculation that the company is also searching for a new ceo, who would report to Bertelli, in what could mean a seismic power shift at Prada’s helm. Prada denied that rumor.

As reported, Prada pushed back its IPO, with the road show slated to begin around July 1 and trading due to start in mid-July.

A Prada spokeswoman was mum on possible contenders for the board, but she did say the group is looking to bring on independent members to boost credibility, better attract investors and improve transparency.

A spokeswoman for Franco Bernabe, the former head of Italian oil giant Eni and telecom group Telecom Italia, denied speculation he is in talks to join the Prada crew. Another touted name, Franco Tato, the former chief executive of electric group Enel, was not available for comment.

Andrea Paladini, an analyst with Centrosim here, said it would be wise for Prada to bolster its board to help give new shareholders a voice in corporate strategy. Having independent members would allow the board “to make strategic decisions with the approval of minority shareholders.”

Armando Branchini, vice president of luxury goods consultancy firm InterCorporate, declined to speculate on who the new board members could be, but he said that both Tato and Bernabe have considerable management experience behind them and in a variety of industries.

On the possibility of Bertelli relinquishing control, Paladini said he thinks it’s unlikely that Bertelli, quite the hands-on ceo, will give up power although such a move “could be appreciated by the market.”

Branchini concurred. He said it’s not out of the question, but it will certainly take some time, given Bertelli’s reputation as a head-strong executive known for being involved in every detail of the business.

“It could take another 10 years,” Branchini said. “Maybe 20 years.”

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