Blackstone takes Versace stake

MILAN (AP) — The Blackstone private equity firm has taken a 20-percent stake in Versace with a 210 million-euro ($287 million) capital injection, the fashion house said Thursday.

Versace fashion house CEO Gian Giacomo Ferraris said by telephone that the investment will help Versace prepare for a long-planned public listing in the next three to five years by ensuring "discipline."

The cash will be used to open more stores of the main Versace brand, which accounts for 60 percent of revenues, while expanding the other Versace brands like Versus and accessories, and increase online commerce.

"We didn't sell to foreign hands," Ferraris said, emphasizing that the family wants to maintain control of the company with a financial investor rather than a strategic one. That contrasts with recent takeovers by French conglomerates of some top Italian brands, like Loro Piana.

The fashion house founded by Gianni Versace struggled after his death in 1997. It returned to profits in 2011, and has seen its revenues double to more than 480 million euros during Ferraris' 4½-year tenure.

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