October 31, 2019,   10:55 AM

Will Roberto Cavalli's New Billionaire Owner Bring It Back To Profitability?

Mary Sophia

At Forbes Middle East, I write about some of the most successful entrepreneurs and companies that... FULL BIO

roberto cavalli boutique in baku

Credit: Wikimedia Commons (Urek Meniashvili)

Dubai-based billionaire businessman and the owner of developer Damac Properties Hussain Sajwani has fully acquired the Italian fashion house Roberto Cavalli, just months after reports emerged of his company participating in a potential bid.

While the company did not disclose an official deal value, the Italian media has pegged the acquisition at 160 million euros ($177 million).

A Damac Properties spokesperson has confirmed that the deal was carried out by Vision Investment Company, which is a part of Sajwani’s private investment vehicle DICO Group – a company with past business dealings with Roberto Cavalli.

The group launched Aykon Hotels in Dubai for which the interior design was done by the Italian fashion house. Sajwani’s Damac Properties has also collaborated with Roberto Cavalli to launch Just Cavalli villas in 2017.

DICO Group reportedly also beat four others to acquire Cavalli. Other bidders included Renzo Rosso that owns brands like Diesel and Marni, BCBG Max Azria owner Marquee Brands, Bluestar Alliance and private equity firm Infinity Group.

DICO’s past collaboration with Cavalli could definitely help in turning things around at the fashion house, which has been struggling to cut its losses since 2014. In the following year, Italian private equity firm Clessidra took a 90% stake in the embattled firm and appointed a new CEO and a creative director to return the firm to profitability. However, losses continued to mount, leading to the departure of the CEO and the creative director in just a year after their appointment.

This paved the way for ex-Versace CEO Gian Giacomo Ferraris, who took over the operations at Cavalli and initiated a restructuring that saw the fashion house slashing 200 jobs and moving its operations to Tuscany from Milan to reduce costs. The move worked and the losses shrunk in 2017.

But Cavalli’s foes were far from over. The brand’s US operations declared bankruptcy this year and closed all stores in the country while Clessidra continued to look for a new buyer to exit its operations in the brand.

With its latest sale, it is yet to see whether Sajwani – who Forbes estimates has a net worth of $2 billion - will be able to turn around the brand’s fortunes. His listed real estate firm Damac Properties has had a tough quarter due to an overall softening in Dubai’s property market but he is no stranger to partnering with European fashion houses. In addition to Cavalli, Damac has also collaborated with Fendi, Versace, and Bugatti to brand his villas.

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