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Leonardo Ferragamo: Angels Need to Wear His Red Sneakers

In Italy, the household is each- thing. Lots of the country’s largest companies are still owned and run by dynasties, and the distinction between the boardroom table and the kitchen table is usually blurred. So when Leonardo Ferragamo, son of the late Salvatore Ferragamo who founded the eponymous luxurious items empire, says “the household is the model”, you already know he means it.

Unlike “Brand Beckham”, assiduously cultivated by the footballer David and his celeb spouse, Victoria, this is no Johnny-come-these days advertising and marketing wheeze. Salvatore Ferragamo started one of the world’s grandest luxury items businesses when he opened his first shoe store in Florence in 1927. One of his most celebrated pairs of sneakers have been the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland within the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. He was additionally liable for the metallic-strengthened stiletto heels made well-known by Marilyn Monroe.

By the 1950s, Salvatore Ferragamo was the shoe of choice for stars such as Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Greta Garbo. All through, he insisted that each one the company’s merchandise ought to only be made in Italy to ensure high quality was not compromised.

Leonardo, who has labored in the corporate all his life, says of his father: “He was a genius, a special particular person. But I never obtained to know him nicely as I was seven when he died.”

When Salvatore passed away aged sixty two in 1960, his spouse, Wanda, took over the operating of the business. With the assistance of her six kids, it has since expanded into a worldwide concern, additionally selling luxurious accessories such as designer glasses, perfume, belts and scarves. Production has grown from 6,500 pairs of shoes a year when Salvatore died to around 10,000 a day now. In 2005 the company made a revenue of nearly $50m (£25m) on gross sales of $718m. Asia now represents half its revenues.

Leonardo learnt the art of shoemaking within the family business and went on to head the menswear division as well as spearheading the drive into Asia. He is also chargeable for the household’s property investments and is the chairman of the yachting group Nautor, extra of which later.

However Salvatore Ferragamo is ready to alter. Final 12 months, for the first time in its 80-12 months history, somebody from exterior the family was introduced in to run the enterprise. Michele Norsa, previously the chief executive of the rival Italian group Valentino, changed Wanda, now aged 85, who has change into chairman as she cuts down her workload and prepares to pass on the reins.

And in September, the corporate announced its intention to float on the inventory market, though the family will retain a majority 52 per cent shareholding.

The appointment of Mr Norsa, it’s hoped, will head off the infighting that has befallen different nice family-run Italian businesses, corresponding to Gucci and Pucci, when their patriarchs died and control passed to their children.

“We are a big family – there are sixty five kids and grandchildren. It could be onerous to select a new boss,” says Leonardo, who’s reported to have been chargeable for placing ahead the flotation plans to the family. “We need to modernise the company and get it ready for the following era.”

In interviews, Wanda has always strongly rejected the opportunity of promoting the enterprise, saying lately she was “virtually offended” by the thought. When you loved this post and you would want to receive details about Luxottica generously visit our website. However she has conceded that her youngsters, between whom possession of the company is divided, could feel otherwise. By going public, the second era of Ferragamos will be capable to promote their shares in the event that they wish.

It is tough to inform whether Leonardo has found it difficult having an outsider operating the family enterprise. “It’s part of the transition,” he feedback. “We share the identical values.”

He additionally insists that having to reply to outdoors shareholders is not going to be an issue. “They can be demanding. However that may be a very good factor.”

Leonardo says that despite the flotation plans, Salvatore Ferragamo will remain true to its ideas and the household will still be heavily concerned even after it lists in round two years’ time.

The dynasty is certainly one of the corporate’s best assets, he says. “An organization owned by the family can switch a degree of security and integrity. It gives a assure of continuity. We don’t just depend on one man who comes and goes. The household is the brand.”

Central to the Salvatore Ferragamo brand is the “Made in Italy” stamp discovered on its products, denoting top quality and good workmanship. For instance, the corporate’s formal Tramezza footwear are hand-made in a manufacturing facility close to Florence by half a dozen employees. Nonetheless, manufacturing prices are much larger than those of its rivals, a lot of which have shifted operations to Asia. Leonardo’s brother, Ferrucio, as soon as complained in an interview that some of the company’s staff labored fewer than eight hours each day and have been “spoiled”. They needed, he hinted, to adapt to the global economic system.

Leonardo does not promise that every one the company’s goods might be made in Italy indefinitely: “We now have to keep our eyes open. Issues change on this planet. There are other opportunities all over the world. We’ve got an open angle to it.”

Aside from footwear, Leonardo’s great love is crusing, a passion he has been able to indulge in some style. In 1998, he purchased Nautor, which makes the famous Swan yachts, having sailed its boats for years as an enthusiast. In his Italian lilt, he recounts the “lovely story” of how he first came to be concerned with the corporate, which has established such racing events as the Swan Regatta and the Swan Cup, and also scooped the trophy in 1973 for the first Whitbread Round the World Race.

“I went to visit the factory. A new world opened as much as me,” he recalls. “I was amazed at the quality and reliability of each worker, particularly the satisfaction they were taking to make it particular.”

Leonardo appreciates good craftsmanship, whether or not in a nime shop ferragamo shoe or a ship. Like Salvatore Ferragamo, Nautor focuses on high quality not amount, making simply forty yachts a year, which range in price from €400,000 (£250,000) to a number of million. “[Sneakers and boats] are each forms of transportation,” he adds without a trace of irony, warming to his theme. “The Swan yacht is about branding and quality. Sneakers should not just about aesthetics however what’s inside them. It is all in regards to the id of the product.”

Born 23 July 1953.

Training University of Imede, Lausanne, Switzerland – enterprise administration diploma; Columbia University, New York – administration and finance diploma.

Career at Salvatore Ferragamo
1973-75: assistant to director, leather-based division.

1975-80: director, males’s sneakers division.
1980-87: director, males’s division.

1987-94: industrial director, Europe/Asia.
1994-2000: chief government, Europe/South America/Asia.

2000 to now: chief govt of the holding company.
Different Pursuits

Ferragamo Flats Patent RedBought Nautor in 1998, turning into chairman. Also chairman of the board at Camper & Nicholsons, the English yachting business bought by Nautor in 2001.

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