Almost 80 years after the opening of its first store, Ottica Romani, one of Italy's largest eyewear chains, which recently grew to a total of 50 outlets, has gone out of business. Following petitions filed by Luxottica and Killer Loop, the civil court of Rome declared the chain bankrupt on July 2, and appointed Giuseppe Righi as trustee in charge of the case. A meeting with the company's creditors is scheduled for Oct. 8.

Righi is reportedly looking for a candidate willing to take over the chain on a rental basis to help save the jobs of Romani's 120 employees, some 100 of whom work in the chain's retail outlets and a further 20 in the head office. Giulio Romani, owner of what was probably Rome's oldest eyewear chain, had opened a string of new outlets in the past few years in the North of Italy, apparently with the ambition of growing to national and international status. But the entrepreneur failed to disclose the financial results of his most recent investments, and the firm ? established in 1925 ? is now bankrupt.

The court only says that the firm's debts are ?huge.? It says that Giulio Romani presented a recovery plan which his creditors refused, partly because the debtor's memory on the issue was far too vague. Analysts put the company's debts at around €31 million for revenues that probably declined to around €14 million in 2002. However, Romani has reported revenues of €22 million for the year 2001 on its website, Internet Ottica Romani. The forecast given on the website for 2002 was €29 million, with no figures to show what proportion of the increase was expected to be generated by the new stores. It gave the total number of stores at 50 doors, after 4 new openings in the Veneto and Lombardy regions of Italy and 3 in Slovenia.

The industry knew that Romani was in trouble, and a number of candidates had contacted the owner to discuss the possibility of an acquisition. However, the bankruptcy has stopped any such talks and the liquidation procedure should now result in the company being put on the market at a very low price. Potential buyers include Dino Tabacchi, owner of Salmoiraghi & Viganò, for whom the acquisition would be a good way of strengthening the group's retail presence in Central Italy, particularly in Rome.

The affair has produced at least one important casualty. Major disagreements concerning potential relations with Ottica Romani before the announcement of its bankruptcy have resulted in a definitive split between Fabrizio Brogi and Salmoiraghi & Viganò, where he served as marketing manager.