Blackstone Hits The Catwalk With Versace

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Sober-suited private equity firm Blackstone Group has reached an agreement with flamboyant fashion house Gianni Versace and its holding company GIVI Holding to invest in a minority stake which values the whole company at 1 billion euros ($1.36 billion).

The New York firm has agreed to inject 150 million euros of new capital in Versace and will acquire a further 60 million euros of stock from GIVI Holding in exchange for a 20% stake.

The Versace family will retain control of the business, with Donatella Versace continuing as group creative director.

"We have gained a strong and unique positioning in luxury fashion," she said in a statement. Blackstone's investment "will enable us to achieve Versace's potential," she added.

Versace said the extra capital will permit it to invest in its retail store network, both in its existing markets and in new, emerging markets. Versace will also be able to develop its portfolio of brands, in particular Versus Versace, as well as focusing on accessories and other products, and improving its e-commerce business.

A source familiar with the situation pointed out that Versace appeared undervalued compared with competitors such as Prada SpA, and had a huge potential for growth. Rolling out new stores in underserved markets, including China, and internationalizing its sales network were obvious steps, the source added.

The Versace family has recognized the need for outside investment and expertise for some time, and brought in Goldman, Sachs & Co. to help find a buyer for a stake in the company. Blackstone beat both Bahrain-based Investcorp and CCMP Capital Advisors LLC to win the auction. London buyout firm Permira, which had expressed an interest, dropped out at an earlier stage.

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