(Adds source on talks under way)
By Marie-Louise Gumuchian
MILAN Jan 15 Italian designer Roberto Cavalli said he had agreed to sell a minority stake in his fashion house to private equity company Clessidra, business daily Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Thursday.
"I am close to signing a preliminary (agreement) for the sale of a minority stake to the Clessidra fund," Cavalli was quoted as saying by Il Sole 24 Ore.
Cavalli, known for his bold prints and flowing dresses, said he planned to sell a stake of 15 percent to 20 percent.
"Nothing more," he said. "(The idea is to) list ourselves on the market between three and four years," he said.
He did not say how much the stake was worth.
A source close to the matter confirmed talks between Cavalli and Clessidra were ongoing.
"There is contact (between the two). It is difficult to say whether this is the real thing -- there will be due diligence, a valuation and we will see," the source said.
Clessidra and a Cavalli spokeswoman were not immediately available for comment.
Cavalli had decided against doing a deal with private equity companies because of a disagreement over valuation, Il Sole 24 Ore said.
The companies had offered a price equivalent to between 10 and 11 times the house's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), while Cavalli wanted 16 times, it said.
Cavalli had estimated his fashion house was worth 1.4 billion euros ($1.84 billion), 16 times its 2007 earnings before EBITDA, the newspaper said.
In September, the designer, who counts the Spice Girls among his fans, told Reuters he did not need to do a sale and would wait.[ID:nLO445026]
Italian fashion companies, often still run by the founding families, are under pressure to bring in outside capital or management as competition mounts from major luxury conglomerates such as France's LVMH (LVMH.PA).
IT Holding ITH.MI, owner of Gianfranco Ferre, has said it intended to complete a deal with China's Mensun, with whom it was locked in exclusive discussions until Dec. 31.[ID:nLT599636]
Its chief executive has been given the go-ahead to continue talks and explore other deals.
Salvatore Ferragamo in November reiterated that markets needed to stabilise for the luxury brand to work on a bourse listing.[ID:nLP73868] (Reporting by Gilles Castonguay, Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Massimo Gaia; Editing by Andrew Macdonald and Rupert Winchester)