Why is the historic Ermenegildo Zegna going public after 111 years? The Italian fashion brand will list shares on the New York Stock Exchange in a US$3.2 billion SPAC deal

Ermenegildo Zegna’s New York City flagship store. Photo: Zegna

Ermenegildo Zegna is listing its shares via a US$3.2 billion deal with a blank-check company, letting the Italian fashion house join other luxury brands tapping investor cash while keeping the founding family in control.

Zegna said Monday, July 11, that it will raise US$880 million by combining with Investindustrial Acquisition Corporation, a special-purpose acquisition company whose chairman is Sergio Ermotti, former chief executive officer of UBS Group AG. The Zegna family will control 62 per cent of the combined entity and the shares will trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

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The move is a strategic shift for the 111-year-old company and it comes as luxury-goods makers keep consolidating, following the 2018 acquisition of Versace and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE’s record purchase of Tiffany & Co. this year. Zegna’s approach contrasts with those deals, as the SPAC transaction allows the company to go public yet remain controlled by the current shareholders.
Ermenegildo Zegna’s autumn/winter 2019 show and #WhatMakesAMan campaign, starring Nicholas Tse and Mahershala Ali as ambassadors. Photo: Handout

“The timing is perfect, the luxury business is getting very challenging,” Gildo Zegna, CEO and grandson of the founder, said on a call with reporters. “This will create new opportunities in the future,” with the backing of “supportive partners”.

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Listing in the US will also provide Zegna more visibility, Andrea Bonomi, the founder of Investindustrial, said on the call. The investment company will own an 11 per cent stake, while the remaining 27 per cent will be traded on the market.

Plywood covers the windows of an Ermenegildo Zegna store in Chicago, Illinois, US, in October 2020. Photo: Reuters

Originally founded as a fabric maker in 1910 by Ermenegildo Zegna in Trivero, Italy, the company went on to become a well-known luxury menswear brand under the third and fourth generations of the Zegna family.

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In 2018, Zegna bought Thom Browne as it sought to attract a younger customer base and add womenswear. The label’s revenue has doubled since the acquisition. Zegna said the brand will continue to invest as it aims to become the leader in menswear. The priority will be to grow organically, especially in digital marketing. Last month, Zegna struck a partnership with Prada SPA to invest in a cashmere maker in Italy as luxury companies seek to better control their supply chain.

Ermenegildo Zegna’s autumn/winter 2019 show and #WhatMakesAMan campaign, starring Nicholas Tse and Mahershala Ali as ambassadors. Photo: Handout

CEO Zegna said that last year was the most challenging of his career. The company had to slash operating costs by 20 per cent, an unprecedented move. Still, Zegna maintained spending on operations in China, a key market for luxury. While some regions such as Singapore are still affected by the pandemic, Dubai has been booming, he added.

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Zegna operates 296 stores in 80 countries and expects sales this year to recover to the level of 2019.

Zegna said it doesn’t intend to be a consolidator of Italian luxury brands the way rival groups LVMH or Gucci owner Kering SA have become. “We don’t have the ambition to be a conglomerate,” he said.

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  • CEO Gildo Zegna says the maison doesn’t have the ‘ambition to be a conglomerate’ like Gucci owner Kering, despite buying Thom Browne in 2018
  • Michael Kors acquired Versace in 2018 and LVMH bought Tiffany & Co. this year – is the consolidation of luxury brands becoming a trend?