MILAN Jan 14 Flamboyant Italian celebrity Lapo
Elkann, a member of Fiat's Agnelli dynasty, is
considering linking up with financial investors to propel his
design group Italia Independent towards further growth.
The 35-year-old, known in Italy for his dedication to
Agnelli-owned soccer club Juventus and his stable of
luxury sports cars, told Reuters he was thinking about an
initial share offering or a private sale this year.
"In the past I considered finance as a cynical business,
distant from reality, arrogant towards entrepreneurs," he said,
wearing a pinstriped suit, white shirt and a black tie.
Though part of Italy's powerful family of industrial
tycoons, Lapo Elkann cuts a very different figure from his
reserved brother John, who took over Fiat's presidency in 2010.
"My brother is an expert in this field but I hope finance
will occupy a larger part of my life in the future," said
Elkann, who owns a stake in Fiat along with his siblings through
family holding Exor.
Elkann set up his design group in 2007 with old-time
friends, now chief executive Andrea Tessitore and general
director Giovanni Accongiagioco. The group includes a sunglasses
firm of the same name, and also teams up with manufacturers to
create limited series objects such as denim-clad fridges and
Fiat 500-shaped chairs.
The design firm is targeting revenues of 18 million euros in
2013, a six-fold increase from 2010.
As part of its reorganisation plan into a group that manages
design, fashion, accessories and communication - it includes an
advertising company Independent Ideas - Italia Independent could
also buy brands in those sectors in the future, he said, though
did not give further details.
Italia Independent also plans to gradually increase its
presence in foreign markets while reducing its exposure to
Italy, which currently accounts for half of sales.
"We aim to get to 50 million euros of revenues in the next
few years," Elkann said.
Family-owned small and mid-sized businesses - the backbone
of Italy's economy - are suffering from limited access to credit
amid the worst euro zone debt crisis in decades but many are
reluctant to sell because of fears of losing control.
Italian banks' loans to businesses in November declined at
the fastest pace since records began in 2001 while bad debts
rose to nearly 122 billion euros, Bank of Italy data showed on
New-York born Elkann, a globe-trotter who speaks five
languages while promoting Italian style, said he hoped other
domestic firms would follow his example and seek financial
"The banking system is not helping Italian firms," he said.
The decline in lending to Italian firms is exacerbating a
credit crunch in the euro zone's third largest economy, which
has been mired in a recession since 2011.
Elkann is considering listing Italia Independent on the
Alternative Investment Market (AIM), the London Stock Exchange's
platform for small, growing companies. LSE also owns the
Milan stock exchange.
Methorios, a consultant for small firms IPOs, is advising
Elkann over the deal. Deutsche Bank and Morgan
Stanley are general financial advisors for the group,
Italia Independent has increased pre-tax profits every year,
helped by a fast-changing array of products. Its sunglasses unit
includes styles with frames in a material that changes from
black into camouflage and polka dot prints when under the sun.
The company expects pre-tax profits to reach 1.7 million
euros in 2013.
Elkann said he had invested 1.5 million euros to launch his
company after marketing jobs at Fiat and Maserati.
He said he wanted to bring "customised" luxury - the inside
of his Ferrari car is covered with denim - to everyday items
One of his sunglasses models - which are sold at around 150
euros - can be personalised in 200,000 different ways, he said.
Elkann was behind the relaunch of the Fiat 500 brand, taking
the small car from a cheap, elderly model into an trendy object
of desire, even pairing up with luxury goods maker Gucci for a
limited series of the car featuring Gucci's signature red-green
stripe and velvet-look dashboard.