Vittorio Tabacchi, former chairman of Safilo and son of the company's founder, Guglielmo Tabacchi, said that “too many mistakes” had been made at the company, in which his family still has a 9.22 percent stake through the firm Only 3T according to bourse filings.
In an interview with the daily Il Mattino di Padova released after the announcement of the departure of Safilo's chief executive, Luisa Delgado, Tabacchi said that a change at the helm was “the least that could be done” considering the group's latest results. “Unfortunately, the situation is very bad,” he added.
He said that even though Delgado was a well-prepared manager, she did not have the skills to run a company as complex as Safilo, which requires knowledge of the fashion industry, precision mechanics and chemistry.
Tabacchi claimed it was a “strategic mistake” to hire Delgado but it was also a “huge mistake” to have left her predecessor, Roberto Vedovotto, leave without a non-competition agreement (see adjoining article).
Regarding Delgado's successor, Angelo Trocchia, Tabacchi said “he comes from Unilever. Unfortunately that's the case, but at least he knows about industrial factories.”
When asked whether Delgado's five-year business plan will be confirmed, Tabacchi blasted “five-year plans cannot be done in the fashion industry, which changes every three months. The organization has to be very nimble, as Zara taught us.”
Tabacchi is obviously expressing his own point of view and there are no doubts about Trocchia's credentials. But, like certain Italian football clubs, Safilo has been addressing underachievement by replacing coaches rather than thoroughly reviewing its strategic positioning. And that also happened during Tabacchi's stewardship. The company has not been short of former managers such as Claudio Gottardi and Vedovotto who went on to prove their worth in the industry as head of Marchon for the former and at Kering Eyewear for the latter.
The fact remains that the company has seen its top line decline over the years and has failed to improve its profitability. The expected loss of LVMH brands in the future will not make the task easier.
In an industry undergoing a sea change, the question remains whether the company is properly equipped to pursue its journey and whether it makes sense to expose its troubles to the public eye by being listed on the stock exchange. With the share price so low and limited leeway to create value in the short to medium term, recent speculation regarding Hal's intentions and Safilo's future is likely to persist.