Marcolin is following a matrix management system and best-practice criteria for the integration of Viva International, the big American company that it purchased late last December. The integration process is still ongoing, but Giovanni Zoppas, the chief executive of the group, and other executives of the company agreed to share some of the highlights with us. Zoppas, who became Marcolin's CEO at the end of 2011, is now responsible also for all of Viva's operations.

Many of the back-office functions, such as finance and logistics, are being merged. Interesting synergies are being explored in the area of design and product development, taking advantage of the respective capabilities, know-how and purchasing power of the two organizations.

In this spirit, Marcolin's staff in Italy is being made responsible for the design and development of any products made in Italy, but the diffusion lines of both companies are now being handled by an executive of Viva, Jennifer Orentas, who has been made senior vice president of global merchandising.

She reports to Valerio Giacobbi, who was appointed 14 months ago general manager of sales, marketing and business strategies for Marcolin, soon after the acquisition of a controlling interest in the company by the PAI Partners equity fund. He came from Luxottica and is based in Italy.

Orentas is taking care of all the product lines of the enlarged group that are manufactured for the most part in Asia, where Viva has established strong relations with its local subcontractors. This applies to most of Viva's product lines as well as to Cover Girl, Kenneth Cole, Timberland and other brands that are licensed to Marcolin. Italian brands such as Diesel or DSquared2 are still handled in Italy, even though the production is partly carried out in Asia.

Speaking about a “cross-fertilization” between the two organizations in the area of product design and development, company officials noted that Marcolin's input should help Viva to better adapt its collections to the international market.

Serena Valente, Marcolin's head of communication based in Milan, has taken on global responsibilities for the whole group, including Viva. Candy Urbansky, vice president of marketing of Marcolin USA, is coordinating the marketing functions for all the segments of the group since last January, again on a worldwide basis, out of Marcolin's office on New York City's Madison Avenue.

The integration process is proving to be more complex and more gradual when it comes to the distribution of the sales functions, particularly in Europe where Marcolin and Viva have their own sales offices in many countries. The management is trying to cut their operating costs through synergies, but none of them has been shut down.

On the contrary, Marcolin is seeking to optimize the operations of the existing sales networks for all the brands of the group, without any fictitious differentiation between the various segments of the group's product range. The group's entire sales staff is being motivated to perform better for the benefit of all the product lines.

In North America, the sales organization has been streamlined and segmented by creating specific sales forces for the different retail channels. For example, the optical retail sector is being covered by more than 170 sales reps who were previously working for Marcolin or Viva. They are jointly run now by Sal Rianna, former chief financial officer of Viva. A distinct sales force is taking care of the department stores, where the group's luxury brands have more relevance.

Fabrizio Gamberini, former CEO of Marcolin USA, is now in charge of all the operations of the group in North and Central America in his new position of CEO for Marcolin USA-Viva. Further south in the continent, the former subsidiaries of Marcolin and Viva in Brazil have been merged into a single organization run by Carlos Guilherme, a former executive of Luxottica.

Elsewhere around the world, discussions are taking place with distributors to develop new synergies and new partnerships. Zoppas indicated that some of them will eventually be turned into joint venture partners who will be more motivated to develop the business. Contacts are taking place with various parties in China, for example. Managers of Marcolin say they want to evaluate all the possible opportunities for the medium and long term.

Zoppas admitted that the group suffered some disruptions in its operations last year, as many functions were reorganized in the aftermath of PAI's takeover and the subsequent negotiations for Viva's acquisition. With changes that affected about 75 percent of the former top management at the two companies, the group's sales declined by a couple of percentage points in 2013, the management says, declining to be more specific. While it is still too early to make valid projections for this year, they expressed confidence that the group's sales will increase by around 5 percent in 2014 and that the operating margin before amortization (Ebitda) will improve to a level of between 12 and 13 percent of sales.

The acquisition of Viva was partly financed through a €200 million, seven-year bond issued to institutional investors last November. At the time of the acquisition, Marcolin had its own brands, Marcolin and Web Eyewear, and licenses with Balenciaga, Cover Girl, Diesel, 55DSL, DSquared2, Hogan, John Galliano, Just Cavalli, Kenneth Cole New York, Kenneth Cole Reaction, Miss Sixty, Montblanc, Roberto Cavalli, Swarovski, Timberland, Tod's and Tom Ford.

 Viva came with the following brands: Bongo, Candie's, Catherine Deneuve, Gant, Guess, Harley-Davidson, Magic Clip, Marciano, Rampage, Savvy, Skechers and Viva. Since the takeover, the enlarged group has taken on the licenses for Ermenegildo Zegna and Agnona eyewear. Other important ones are said to be in the pipeline.