The family of the billionaire Prada heir is signaling openness to takeovers as luxury dynasties look to the future

Family-owned luxury fashion empires are not particularly known for their openness when it comes to succession planning. The world’s largest conglomerate, LVMH, is still controlled by chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault. Four of his five children serve on LVMH’s board, and all of them want to take over when he finally steps down.

Last month, Giorgio Armani, the famed Italian designer behind his brand, raised eyebrows when he said he wasn’t ruling out an eventual sale of the company.

Now the heir to another luxury company has spoken out on the matter, saying he will consider making a takeover of his 110-year-old brand.

“We have been and will always be open to considering possibilities,” Lorenzo Bertelli, Prada’s chief social responsibility officer and heir to the billionaire family that controls it, told Bloomberg.

Bertelli responded to questions about Armani’s future, which he declined to comment on. Yet it is telling that he is now discussing the possibility of expanding Prada’s stable of brands, which includes Miu Miu and Church, whereas just three years ago he was pushing back against suggestions that Prada itself might one day be sold, insisting he wanted the group to remain under control family control.

Prada and Armani are among the Italian fashion houses that have remained independent in an era of widespread mergers and acquisitions. Along with Salvatore Ferragamo, Ermenegildo Zegna and Canali remain controlled by the families that founded them.

Many others were acquired by conglomerates such as France’s LVMH and Kering – both family-controlled – including Berluti and Gucci, respectively.

Prada itself has been actively involved in deals, although on a smaller scale, including: last year’s acquisition of a minority stake in the knitwear manufacturer Fedeli.

The Hong Kong-listed company, 80% of which is controlled by the Bertelli family through a holding company, is certainly in a strong position to consider M&A. Although the tightening of customer wallets has affected the luxury industry, Prada bucked the trend.

The company reported strong results in 2023 and is investing heavily in its retail presence to attract more buyers. It may not be as big as market leader LVMH – Prada’s sales last year reached 4.7 billion euros ($5 billion) compared to the French conglomerate’s 86.2 billion euros ($92.6 billion) – and yet it is one of the most recognizable luxury brands and has over 100 years of tradition.

Stay independent no matter what

Family business owners often want to maintain creative and financial control to protect their family legacy – and who better to protect that legacy than family?

Armani, who is still his company’s CEO at 90 years old, said that “independence from large groups may still be the driving value of the Armani Group” in an interview with Bloomberg last month, when he first acknowledged the possibility of a takeover.

“Right now, I can’t imagine being taken over by a large luxury conglomerate,” Armani said. “Listing on an exchange is something we haven’t discussed yet, but it is an option that could be considered, hopefully in the distant future.”

Armani’s CEO succession plan has also not been made public, although he has a number of high-profile figures on the company’s board, from a longtime colleague to his nieces and nephew.

As for Prada, it will be interesting to see how the Bertelli family shapes its future as the forces influencing luxury continue to shift.

Prada representatives did not return Fortunerequest for comment.

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