Versace ready to float on

Brother and sister will pick up listing plan, reports Robert Cox

As Italian fashion mourns the passing of one of its favourite sons, Gianni Versace, Milan's financial circles are buzzing with scenarios on how to proceed with his ultimate show - a stock offering.

While Mr Versace's murder in front of his Miami Beach mansion on Tuesday will certainly postpone a planned flotation in 1998, investment bankers and analysts agree that the designer's siblings, Donatella and Santo, can move quickly to assure the longevity of Italy's number-two fashion house.

The most important move will be to install a top designer to take over the high-end couture and atelier activities that defined the company's image of flamboyant and flashy clothing emblazoned with off-beat designs in unconventional materials.

"The key to Versace's success is whether they can call in an important and well-known fashion designer to oversee the core lines," said Roberto Casoni, an equity analyst at Robert Fleming Securities. "It's still quite risky, because the new guy would have to prove his skills are as good as Versace."

That gamble, though, has worked for some other design houses that have lost their founders and key creative geniuses. The houses of Christian Dior and Chanel both continue as high temples of Parisian fashion even without their namesakes. Closer to home, Gucci Group remains at the forefront of fashion without the family, while Moschino has also survived the death of its namesake.

Versace's status as a family company, with Santo as its chief business brains and Donatella as a fellow designer, may help the transition. In recent years, Donatella has come into her own as a stylist, overseeing the company's lower priced Istante and Versus lines, which accounted for 16 per cent of the company's $500m turnover in 1996.

While Donatella is often mentioned as her brother's likely successor at the helm of the company, bankers say her experience first as a model and later as a designer might not give investors the confidence they are seeking.

Versace officials are mum on the company's plans for now. In a statement released on Thursday, Donatella and Santo said: "We would like the world to be assured that the indomitable spirit, the amazing vitality and the faith in creativity that makes Gianni Versace so important to everyone, is something that we are completely committed to and most capable of continuing, as he would have wanted us to."

Dior has kept its image in recent years by hiring first Gianfranco Ferre to shoulder its image, and most recently by bringing in John Galliano, a British designer with a reputation for flash and flair. Chanel's top stylist is the German designer Karl Lagerfeld.

A more recent example is the house of Moschino, the Italian designer who died last year. Rather than close down the firm, his scissors were passed to a rising star in the field, Alberta Ferretti, and sales have continued to rise.

One key to Versace's future will be whether the company can change its image from that of the designer to that of a brand name, a path successfully trodden by Gucci, which rose from the ashes of a bitter family quarrel and murder of its heir apparent to become one of the hottest properties in fashion, and on Wall Street.

In 1995, Maurizio Gucci was gunned down by a hired killer outside his office in Milan, and his wife is currently awaiting trial for the murder. His killing came as the maker of luxury leather-goods and clothing was rebounding from years of losses.

Mr Gucci, the grandson of Guccio Gucci who founded the company earlier this century, was still working at the company although he had sold his half of the company to Investcorp in 1993. The Bahrain-based Investcorp had acquired the other half of the company from other descendants of the founder a few years before amid a family squabble over the company's future.

Gucci's new management quickly brought in a young Texan designer, Tom Ford, to revamp its product line and add new life to its ready-to-wear clothing. Since going public in October 1995, Gucci shares have surged as much as 366 per cent.

"Versace has to be thinking if there are any other Tom Fords out there somewhere," said Mr Casoni at Flemings.

Transforming Versace from legend into brand, of course, will be no simple task, mainly because the appeal of his clothing has been its characteristic flamboyance which the designer developed over 50 years, and which attracted celebrities such as singers Elton John and Michael Jackson to don his threads.

"It's a devastating blow both to the company and the family. In fashion, the founder or creator of a line of products is its main attraction," said Shelly Hale Young, an equity analyst at Hambrecht & Quist in San Francisco.

"There will need to be a transition period before the company can start thinking about an IPO [initial public offering]."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power