The board of directors of Safilo Group decided last month to appoint one of its non-executive directors, Luisa D. Delgado, as the company's new chief executive, replacing Roberto Vedovotto. She will formally take over the position on Oct. 15, but she will join the group already on Sept. 15.
Company officials declined to comment on the change of management. It seems, however, judging from her profile, that the board is looking to the 46-year-old Delgado as a manager who will probably be able to reposition Safilo and its numerous brands for a new phase of growth, now that the company is on a more solid financial and operational footing, thanks to Vedovotto.
Because of her background in fast-moving consumer goods, Delgado is seen as an expert in the international management of consumer goods who will help Safilo to exploit better the potential of Safilo's house brands, led by Carrera, Smith and Polaroid, and of its licensed brands. A few days ago, the company announced the acquisition of the Fendi eyewear license, which was previously held by Marchon.
Delgado is currently a member of the global executive board of SAP and the company's chief human-resources officer, but she previously spent 21 years at Procter & Gamble, working in several local and international roles in Portugal, the U.K., Belgium, Switzerland and Sweden. Like Safilo, P&G deals with many different brands, and it is notorious for doing so in a very professional way.
In announcing the change of management, Safilo noted that, in her last role at P&G as vice president and chief executive for the Nordic region, Delgado was responsible for its turnaround in the Nordic countries, taking the lead in digital marketing.
Delgado is a Swiss national who studied in Geneva and London. Aside from her current position at SAP, she is also a non-executive director of INGKA, the holding company for the various Ikea companies.
In its announcement to the press, Safilo's board of directors expressed “utmost gratitude” to Vedovotto for his “leadership, dedication and tremendous work” at Safilo. Noting that he will stay on as a non-executive director after relinquishing his present duties, the announcement pointed out that Safilo has improved its overall business performance and strengthened its global management organization since Vedovotto became its CEO in January 2009.
Vedovotto is regarded mainly as a financial expert. He had been brought in by Safilo's former chairman, Vittorio Tabacchi, and his lenders to act as CEO of Italy's second-largest eyewear group from 2002 to 2004. After spending 11 years at Morgan Stanley, he played an important role in rearranging the group's finances after Tabacchi took the company out of the stock market. He then left Safilo to work for Bain & Company.
Vedovotto is credited for Safilo's turnaround and his ability to keep lenders at bay. In 2008, the year before Vedovotto's comeback at the company's helm, Safilo booked a net loss of €23.3 million on sales of €1.15 billion, largely due to debts of €570 million. With Hal Holding coming in as a shareholder at the beginning of 2010 to recapitalize the company, he was confirmed in his position, with a mission to double its sales. The subsequent loss of the Armani licenses prevented the group from raising its turnover, which stood at €1,175 million last year, but the company was able to deliver a net profit of €25.9 million. It make another nice profit in the first quarter of 2013, and by the end of last March, the company's debt had declined to €220 million. Vedovotto's latest important move was a significant restructuring of the company's credit lines and the reimbursement of its high-yield notes.
Vedovotto is said to be still a minority shareholder of Safilo. As of last December, he held 240,000 shares, which are now worth more than €3 million. He held more shares when he became the CEO for the second time.