Italia Independent has appointed Mario Pietribiasi as its new chief executive. Meanwhile, Lapo Elkann has been reconfirmed as the company's chairman. Pietribiasi replaces Giovanni Carlino, who has left the company “for personal reasons.” Pietribiasi has served since 2012 as managing director of Koru Eyewear, a private label producer that he founded in Hong Kong. Prior to that, he spent 25 years in various management roles at the Safilo Group. He became its general manager in 2008.
We'll see whether the turbulence at the top of the Italian eyewear company is finally over with a personality of his caliber. In the last three years, three CEOs have left the company abruptly, starting with Giovanni Acconciagoco in 2016 and less than one year later Andrea Tessitore. Both of them had participated in the foundation of Italian Independent together with Elkann in 2008.
At the end of 2016, Tessitore called on Carlino to take his place as CEO and switched over to the position of vice chairman. Carlino, who previously worked for the Boston Consulting Group and various investment firms, was joined by four new executives a few months later. Carlino imposed a strict diet on the group, cutting down costs and streamlining operations. Last March 22, he announced “an important transition to a more mature and efficient company,” but six weeks later he took his hat and left the group with immediate effect.
The reorganization at the top of the company includes the appointment of a new board of directors that will remain in charge for the next three years. Pietribiasi will be accompanied on the board by three new directors proposed by Elkann: Gianluca Ferrero, Giovanna Maria Dossena and Enrico Crasso. The company has also appointed new auditors.
As reported earlier this year, Italia Independent went through a new €8 million refinancing program last Feb. 4, letting in a new investor, Creative Ventures (EWI Vol. 20 n° 2+3 of Feb. 22). It followed a previous financing round worth €4.89 million, held last summer. Elkann still owns a majority stake of 53.59 percent.
The new board has approved the preliminary results for 2018 that were already published more than one month ago (see our previous issue), which showed slightly lower losses on a 12.2 percent drop in the consolidated turnover to €19.4 million. The company ended up with negative Ebitda of €1.18 million and a net loss of €6.0 million. Net debt declined to €16.3 million thanks to the previous equity increase.
The company's wholesale business in the eyewear sector represented 80 percent of the revenues. Of this, 74 percent came from the Italian market, where sales gained 41.1 percent, and 13 percent from the rest of Europe, where sales were off by 62.9 percent. The company's own two brands – Italia Independent and Pop Line – contributed 75.7 percent of the revenues in the segment. The remaining 24.3 percent came from licenses like Adidas Originals, Hublot and Disney, but the Adidas Originals license will not be renewed after the end of 2019.
Retail sales fell last year by 14.6 percent to $1.4 million after the shutdown of numerous stores in Italy and France in the course of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. Late last year, Italia Independent closed two more stores in Courmayeur and in Turin. During the first quarter of 2019, the company bought out a former franchised outlet at Serravalle. The store network now consists of four full-price stores in Italy and one in Miami, plus three factory outlets.