Roberto Cavalli “heading for different league” after Leopard King finally says “yes” to suitor Clessidra

It’s been a long time coming – a really long time – but Roberto Cavalli finally has a new owner and the high-end Italian company, known for its sexy style and love of animal print, has become yet another designer brand under private equity control.

Step forward Italian private equity fund Clessidra, which has taken a hefty stake in the fashion house for an undisclosed sum, although analysts priced the deal somewhere between €390m-€450m.

Together with minority co-investors L-Gam and Hong Kong’s Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, Clessidra now owns 90%, with 74-year-old founder Roberto Cavalli – the self-dubbed Leopard King – retaining a 10% holding in the business he started while in his early 30s.

“I am extremely satisfied to have signed this agreement with an Italian partner,” said Cavalli – that satisfaction is unsurprising given that the company been a buyout target since at least 2006 and he was talking to Clessidra (one of many suitors that included Permira, Investcorp and Russia’s VTB Capital) as far back as 2008.

It’s believed that the hold-ups were down to the valuation potential buyers put on the company, as well as getting licensees on-side with any deal.

So what happens next? Well, while details are still sketchy, it’s clear that Clessidra (and Cavalli, let’s not forget him as he still has that 10% stake) have big plans.

Renato Seminari, a leading beauty industry executive latterly with LVMH and Coty, will become CEO, with respected former Bulgari CEO Francesco Trapani, who joined Clessidra last year, becoming Cavalli’s chairman.

“We strongly believe in the potential of Roberto Cavalli,” said Trapani, adding: “In five years from now, we aim to be in a different league.”

We don’t know what the different league will be yet but we should expect new product categories, new markets, and – surely – a robust exploitation of omnichannel.

“It is a company with a unique style, unparalleled market positioning and a truly global awareness. Cavalli’s brand identity is an asset that we want to preserve, a key factor on which we will found all the company’s plans for international growth,” Trapani said.

There was little mention of creative issues with the announcement but it is believed that Peter Dundas, who was appointed Cavalli creative head in March, joining from Emilio Pucci, will continue in that role.

In 2014, Cavalli’s ebitda fell to €15m from €22.4m in 2013, hit by one-off items linked to problems at licensees. Sales last year rose 4.2% to €209.4m mostly from around 200 international stores.

It has also moved into hospitality and opened hotels and bars, including the Cavalli Café in San Francisco and the Cavalli Club restaurant in Dubai.

Know what’s next. Become a WGSN member today to benefit from our daily trend intelligence, retail analytics, consumer insights and bespoke consultancy services.