Fastweb founder takes control of La Perla

Luxury lingerie gets a second chance with Scaglia's holding

Fastweb founder takes control of La Perla

(By Kate Carlisle) Bologna, June 4 - Floundering luxury lingerie maker La Perla was guaranteed a new injection of funds needed to keep the historic company alive after SMS Finance, the holding company of entrepreneur Silvio Scaglia, placed the winning bid for its purchase on Tuesday. Beating out stocking and sock specialist Calzedonia and other suitors, Scaglia's Luxembourg-based SMS Finance paid an administrative court 69 million euros for the Bologna makers of costly corsets and undergarments. "The La Perla brand is great and can certainly be relaunched with enormous success. Something we intend to do," Scaglia, founder of Italian fiber optic telecommunications provider Fastweb, said. Founded in 1954 by a corset-maker in the city of Emilian city Bologna, La Perla was bought in 2008 by US private equity fund JH Partners, which invested around 50 million euros in the firm. Perhaps known as Italy's sexiest brand, the company led the Italian and European market as top creator of luxurious and fashionable nightwear, swimwear and loungewear for women and men since Ada Masotti, an artisan skilled in the tradition of hand-crafted corsetry, opened a boutique in Bologna. The name La Perla was inspired by the red-velvet lined cases in that transported Masotti's first creations like valuable jewels or delicious bon bons to customers who special ordered their artisanal pieces. After starting with traditional skin-tones, La Perla introduced new colored lingerie in the 1960s and then moved in to swimwear in the 1970s in a continued push to diversify and seek broader markets. The company has been looking for possible partners since the end of 2012 as it needs funds to slash its debt, estimated at 70 million euros. Today the brunt of La Perla's production remains in Bologna. The company employees about 1,400 people worldwide and has some 134 Italian, foreign, single-brand and 'corner' stores. Scaglia says that his plans for the company include boosting its international retail network, making their items available in 160 stores worldwide over the next three years. A key part of the bid victory revolved around the 800 employees based in Italy and the vow to keep production in the country. With Fastweb and other companies, Scaglia said he "created 15,000 jobs, and I don't believe I have ever fired employees or reduced my workforce during my professional history in Italy". Calzedonia president Sandro Veronesi, who was beat out of the bid by Scaglia's SMS, said that the purchase was a jump "out of the American frying pan and into the Scaglia's cinders. I am sorry for the employees". Scaglia said that plans proposed by his group show that he is ready to "invest at least 100 million euros to bring La Perla back up to the level it deserves". "We guarantee all employees, except for those from the plant closed some time ago, continued work," Scaglia. "The firm intends to leverage the concept of Made in Italy, therefore keeping all production in Italy," Scaglia said.

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