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The New Salvatore Ferragamo

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MILAN — The Salvatore Ferragamo company is transforming.

Its next phase, however, won’t be fully kicked off until the arrival of newly appointed chief executive officer and general manager Marco Gobbetti, who is expected to stay on as CEO of Burberry until the end of the year.

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In an extraordinary board meeting in July, chaired by Leonardo Ferragamo, the Florence-based company said it had reached an agreement with current CEO Micaela le Divelec Lemmi. She will exit on Sept. 7, after the release of Ferragamo’s first-half financial results.

From that date and until Gobbetti joins, all executive powers will be exercised by vice chairman Michele Norsa. Exactly when Gobbetti will be released from his contractual obligations at Burberry has not yet been revealed.

No matter — eyes will be on the executive’s expected transformation of Ferragamo, which has been through a wave of changes and a turnaround under le Divelec Lemmi. A Gucci veteran, she first joined Ferragamo as chief corporate officer and was named CEO in 2018, but her efforts were thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Gobbetti’s successful track record at Burberry ranges from raising the brand’s luxury position and culling the wholesale client list to focusing on full-price sales, taking ownership of the leather goods business and attracting a new, younger generation of shoppers thanks to the designs of creative director Riccardo Tisci, who Gobbetti recruited.

However, the future in terms of creative direction remains a question mark at Ferragamo. Creative director Paul Andrew left in May and a successor has not been named, as the collections are being designed by the in-house team. Observers believe it is extremely unlikely one will be appointed before Gobbetti’s arrival and wonder if Tisci could follow the executive from Burberry, but several sources in Milan do not believe that is an option.

Le Divelec Lemmi will walk away with more than 1.97 million euros as a consideration for the early termination of her contract as she was supposed to remain CEO of the company until Dec. 31, 2023.

Gobbetti, who took up the CEO role at Burberry in July 2017, early in his career served as CEO of Moschino, and later spent 13 years at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, where he was CEO of Givenchy, working with Tisci. He later decamped to Celine, where he worked with Phoebe Philo.

Unlike Burberry, which is an entirely public company, the Ferragamo family still owns a large stake in and part-manages the business, which is listed in Milan.

The brand’s source of sales is high-end leather accessories and fall well within the methodical Gobbetti’s area of expertise.

Gobbetti will be Ferragamo’s fourth CEO in five years: Norsa stepped down in 2016 after a decade and Eraldo Poletto left in 2018 after fewer than two years on the job, succeeded by le Divelec Lemmi.

Analysts see Gobbetti’s arrival as delaying a potential sale of Ferragamo, allowing the executive to engineer and execute a turnaround plan after years of a slowdown at the brand.

Speculation about a possible sale of Ferragamo has swirled for years, and has always been denied by the family, which has been easing out of top roles and hiring outside managers to take the business forward.

In the 12 months ended Dec. 31, Salvatore Ferragamo’s revenues fell 33.5 percent to 916 million euros, hurt by the impact of the pandemic, but business has been picking up, boosted by Greater China and North America.

Ferragamo in July reported preliminary revenues of 524 million euros for the first six months of this year, up 44.1 percent, compared with 363 million euros in the same period of 2020. In the second quarter of 2021, sales soared 91.3 percent compared with the same period last year.

The figures exclude the company’s fragrance business, which will be licensed to Inter Parfums Inc. effective from October, and it is reclassified as discontinued operations.

As reported, the fragrance license will last for an initial term of 10 years and marks a turning point for Ferragamo’s beauty business as its fragrance division was managed in-house for the last two decades. To ensure the continuity of the Made in Italy production and the highest level of synergies with the fashion house, Inter Parfums will operate the Ferragamo fragrance business through a wholly owned company based in Florence.