Versace Posts ’03 Loss As Young Allegra Beck Begins Learning Curve

Versace’s annual meeting saw the debut of Allegra Versace Beck as major shareholder and the repayment of its $123 million bond.

“It is her right to abstain from the voting,” said Daniele Ballestrazzi, Versace’s interim chief executive officer, in a phone interview. “She needs time to understand the figures.”

Beck has appointed Michele Carpinelli, a lawyer with Studio Chiomenti, as her legal adviser. Carpinelli also was present at the shareholders’ meeting. “Carpinelli was nominated on June 30. He, too, needs time to familiarize himself with the company and the figures,” said a Versace spokesman.

A Milan-based analyst said Beck’s abstention can be interpreted in two different ways: “On the one hand, it could be seen as a way to distance herself from her mother and her uncle; on the other, it shows that she wants to have a hands-on, full grasp of the company’s structure and it is a signal that Beck is ready to decide with her own head.”

Another analyst agreed that Beck needed more time to analyze the balance sheets. “This proves that she is very cautious,” noting, however, that the abstention also “allows her to eventually veto the balance sheet, if she were to be in disaccord with any detail listed on the sheet.”

Ballestrazzi said that “a return to profitability is expected for 2004,” and that 2005 would reflect the strategies put in motion over the past six to 12 months. Versace on Friday repaid the 100 million eurobond, or $123 million, issued by Morgan Stanley in 1999, which expired on July 5, through a financing of 120 million euros, or $147.7 million, by Banca Intesa, to be issued in three installments, he said.

Although no longer pressured by the repayment of the bond, the company spokesman said Versace is still looking for a partner that will invest in the house. “Credit Suisse First Boston and Lazard are actively looking at proposals and we will make a decision and will have executed a deal by the end of 2004. We remain interested in a financial partner,” said the spokesman.

As reported, a number of funds have expressed possible interest in a partnership, including Doughty Hanson and Apax Partners. However, another suitor, Matteo Corsini, disavowed claims he’d made that he was acting on behalf on the Dubai-based fund Istithmar group in approaching the Versaces about a possible deal. In a letter to WWD, Corsini — whose track record has been questioned by the Italian press — now claims he was acting on behalf of his own real estate company, Corsini real estate & investments ltd., in approaching the Versaces and not on the part of Istithmar.
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