Family-owned Missoni sells 41.2 percent stake for expansion

MILAN — The family-owned Missoni fashion house announced Friday that Italian investment fund FSI will take a 41.2 percent stake in the firm to help expand the business and help usher the house toward an eventual public listing.

Creative director Angela Missoni said the family will retain a 58.8 percent stake and operational control of the knitwear brand known for its intricate weaves and colorful designs. The outside investment will allow the company — founded by her parents 65 years ago and now in involving also the third generation — to look to the future, "safeguarding both our family unity and our brand DNA."

FSI CEO Maurizio Tomagnini said the goal of the investment worth 70 million euros ($81 million) was to boost Missoni, which was advised in the deal by Rothschild, to a position of global leadership. The brand's annual revenues are currently around 150 million euros, 75 percent it from exports.

"The Missoni family struck us for its passion, creative energy and absolute fidelity to the brand's codes," Tomagnini said.

The announcement signaled yet another iconic Italian fashion house that has moved to secure its future in the face of generational change, and marks an important signal with the arrival of Italian capital. Several Italian houses, including Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Fendi, have turned to French conglomerates to ensure their future.

Former Salvatore Ferragamo CEO Michele Norsa will become vice chairman, while Angela Missoni will be chair.

Norsa said the investment was aimed at the medium-term, giving the family-run business time to expand retail operations and extend its product range. He said they would move toward a stock listing, but gave no time frame.

"There is a very friendly approach, on the part of the fund, with so-called patient capital. It is not that they are seeking instant results, like private equity," Norsa said. "And they are involving people with experience in the sector to create a new path."

FSI, which has invested in other Italian luxury companies beyond fashion, was also motivated to help avoid another sale of a key Italian brand to foreign investors, Norsa said, adding that not just French but also Chinese and Middle Eastern investors "are looking to make very important investments."

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