MILAN — A personal relationship and sharing the same business vision has often led to longstanding partnerships. Only time will tell whether this could be in the cards for Remo Ruffini and Renzo Rosso, but on Thursday the two entrepreneurs were clearly in agreement on ways to build the companies they helm, Moncler and OTB, respectively.
During the digital Fashion Business Online Talk by RCS Academy, the topics ranged from their mountain biking trips together to the lack of luxury conglomerates in Italy.
“The only Italian entrepreneur that is trying to establish a [luxury] group is Renzo, thanks to his ambition, creativity and to the organization he has built. There could always be someone with lots of money but without this kind of business culture there’s little to no chance for a pole to succeed,” said Ruffini, who is chairman and chief executive officer of Moncler.
“I’m trying to establish an [Italian] luxury group, it’s a good moment for aggregation, spurred by the pandemic,” echoed Rosso, whose OTB fashion group acquired 100 percent of the Jil Sander brand last March. OTB also controls Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Viktor & Rolf, Staff International and Brave Kid, and it has a minority stake in Amiri.
Asked about a potential business alliance between them, they both said “never say never,” somewhat leaving a door open but without much fanfare.
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Ruffini and Rosso spoke of creating value for the industry, their employees and ultimately for the survival of the companies they lead.
“Managing a company today requires a cultural shift and a new business mind-set, not all companies will be able to keep pace with this shake-up and those which cannot make it on their own can always forge alliances,” continued Rosso.
“OTB is committed to support its brands to progress rapidly but this requires a lot of investments and human resources,” he added.
For his part, Ruffini once again shied away from the idea that he was setting up a fashion group, as previously reported, in the wake of Moncler’s takeover of Sportswear Company SpA, owner of the Stone Island brand, last December in a deal valued at 1.15 billion euros.
A publicly listed company on the Milan Bourse since 2013, Moncler’s top management succession plan is top of mind for Ruffini.
“I’m president and CEO of Moncler, but I’m really neither of them, there’s a committee of five people with whom I gather weekly to make decisions,” he said. “I’m not attached to ownership, to percentages and stakes but rather I’m committed to create value. In Italy everybody seems to be looking for full ownership, they want to retain 99 percent of their companies. I understand it but this has really prevented the country from getting a [luxury] group,” he added.
A lot of Moncler C-suite executives have already been nurturing managers who will eventually follow in their footsteps and Ruffini did not rule out having his sons take over the company’s management either, but under the condition that they outperform all other contenders.
At OTB, where three of Rosso’s seven children are already working, the entrepreneur said he’s open to passing the baton to them when the time comes.
Concurrently, as he has previously said over the years, he did not rule out a possible listing of the OTB group in the future, to ensure the company’s continuity. “Public companies leverage an additional boost that a privately owned business cannot have. I like the idea of a broader audience involved in the success of a public company,” Rosso remarked.
“We will reach that point, too, in several years, it allows you to manage the company in a different way and I’m not attached either to ownership as most average Italians are, with their small garden to grow, but I’m satisfied by the responsibility to create something big and important and by the responsibility towards the 7,000 families that are making our group as beautiful as it is,” he offered.
Both entrepreneurs voiced their concerns over the next generation of fashion professionals, urging the government to invest in restructuring the school and university system to better reflect today’s business needs, in the fashion industry and elsewhere, where the digital know-how and technological backbone are paramount.
In his new role as a Confindustria’s delegate focused on promoting the excellence, beauty and taste of Italian brands worldwide, Rosso said he’s committed to bringing the education issue to the table, especially now that the National Plan for Recovery and Resilience that the Italian government has presented to the European Union entails funding of 20 billion euros for the school system.
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