Jul 23, 2017
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Did he or didn't he: did Diesel's Rosso bid for Belstaff?

Jul 23, 2017

The attention may have largely been on Jimmy Choo as JAB Holdings prepares to sell off its luxury fashion operations but the talk at the weekend was about Belstaff.


That was because of a report in The Sunday Times that Renzo Rosso’s OTB Group wants to buy the brand. But there were also reports that the company has denied any interest. So what are we to make of it?

If Rosso was interested, it would add another major name to one of the luxury sector’s most dynamic groups that currently owns Marni, Maison Margiela and Viktor & Rolf. And it would likely mean a much higher-profile future for the Belstaff brand.

But it has to be said that OTB’s recent acquisitions (such as Marni) have been of brands with brands riding higher than Belstaff is at present. JAB acquired Belstaff for around £100 million in 2011 and while it doesn’t break out separate figures for the label,  it’s been lossmaking for several years. In fact, when its potential sale was announced earlier this year, some analysts suggested it could be sold for as little as £3 million, although others said they see greater value in the brand.

It’s up for sale (along with Jimmy Choo and Bally) because the uber-rich Germany-based Reimann family wants to focus on its food/drink and beauty investments, which is perhaps no surprise given that those sectors are far easier to make money in at present.

Renzo Rosso and his team would be great owners for the label as they have shown that their powerful mix of creativity and commerciality, combined with a strong USP, can drive the profits of their existing brands upwards. Whether they would be able to turn around a lossmaking business in a very competitive market is open to question. But it's undeniable that Belstaff does have that USP and that if any company could turn it around, OTB might be top of the wishlist.

But we don’t know whether OTB is on the bidder list, nor whether any other companies have expressed an interest. Whoever does eventually buy it will get a brand that has moved heavily upmarket in recent years but still retains strong links to its heritage (it was founded nearly a century ago as a motorcycle clothing brand).

There has been a lot of change at Belstaff of late with the company moving its HQ back to London nearly two years ago and also shelving plans for a stock market listing after the Brexit vote. At the time, CEO Gavin Haig said he had “de-prioritised” the IPO and would instead focus on growing the business without the benefit of the extra investment cash that the listing would have provided.

He told the a newspaper at the time: “Post-Brexit, we see the luxury and overall market volatility as an opportunity for challenger brands to cut through.”

And the company certainly looked to be in confident mode with Delphine Ninous at the creative helm, a collaboration with Liv Tyler launching, a new marketing push behind the brand, and plans for new stores in Asia.

This April it opened its first flagship store in Tokyo, within the giant Ginza Six retail space. It was the first time the complete women’s offer was made available in one of global fashion’s key cities and followed the brand’s Japanese debut last year.

Last month the company showed its SS18 men’s and women’s collections together in London during men’s fashion week, inspired by the epic adventure and journey of the riders of the Paris Dakar rally. The collection mixes modern performance fabrics with retro sports graphics and prints and takes inspiration from the late 70s and early 80s.

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