Image: Armani

Amid enduring speculation that a deal has been in the works between Exor N.V. and Giorgio Armani, John Elkann, the chairman of the Agnelli family firm, reportedly made an offer to acquire a minority stake in the Italian fashion house only to be rebuffed. A spokesperson for Elkann and the Agnelli family holding company told Reuters that “Exor has made no approach and Exor has made no proposal (for Armani),” but did not explicitly rule out discussions between Mr. Armani, 87, and Mr. Elkann, who have been in talks between themselves about the future of Giorgio Armani and without the involvement of intermediaries from either of their companies, TFL’s sources say. 

On the heels of an interview with Vogue, in which Mr. Armani revealed that he is entertaining the idea of trading in his celebrated brand’s long-standing status as an independently-held entity and partnering with an established group, TFL first reported that the most likely entity to acquire the 46-year-old fashion house is Exor N.V. In addition to sizable stakes in reinsurance company PartnerRe Ltd., Italian football club Juventus F.C., Italian media group GEDI Gruppo Editoriale, publisher Economist Group, capital goods entity CNH Industrial N.V., and Stellantis, which is the result of the recent merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group and French automotive group PSA, Exor has been steadily building out its presence in the luxury space beyond its controlling stake in Italian automaker Ferrari.

The Netherlands-incorporated investment group run by Italy’s Agnelli family – whose late scion Giovanni Agnelli was one of the original founders of Fiat motor company – has made headlines in recent months due to its fashion-centric deals. It announced in December that it would invest “around €80 million [$96.9 million] in Shang Xia, the China-centric fashion brand formerly owned by Hermès, and in early March revealed a new 24 percent stake in luxury footwear brand Louboutin. 

According to Reuters, a successful tie-up with Armani would “establish the Agnellis as major players in the fashion industry alongside the Arnaults and Pinaults in France,” which Mr. Armani has sworn off, specifically saying that “a French buyer is not in the cards” when it comes to his privately-held eponymous label. Sources say that discussions between Mr. Armani and Elkann are “dead for now,” those in the know are, nonetheless, confident that Elkann, 45, is the most talented deal-maker in a new generation of group-builders following the likes of LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault and Kering’s François-Henri Pinault. 

“If there is someone who could create a serious competitor to the French conglomerates, it’s Elkann,” said one banker.

While talks are, in fact, on hold, TFL’s sources say they are likely to resume in September.