July 12, 2018 / 5:33 PM / 4 months ago

Italian hat maker Borsalino bought at auction by Haeres Equita

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy’s Borsalino, one of the world’s most famous hat makers and known for Humphrey Bogart’s fedora in the film “Casablanca”, has been rescued by Haeres Equita, a group of investors led by a Swiss-Italian financier.

FILE PHOTO: Borsalino hats are seen in the showroom of the factory in Alessandria, Italy, May 5, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

The company was put up for sale via an auction after a judge in the town of Alessandria, where the luxury brand was founded in 1857, refused last year to grant it court protection from creditors.

A court in the city of Turin approved a 6.4 million euro offer, a source with knowledge of the matter said, the minimum price that had been fixed for the sale.

The offer from Haeres Equita, the investor group led by businessman Philippe Camperio and which has been managing the company since the end of 2015, was the only one submitted.

The assets on sale included the company’s offices, its production site and machinery, the contracts of its 134 workers, and its network of stores, of which only one is fully-owned.

Camperio bought the Borsalino trademark in May last year for around 18 million euros, making it harder for other potential to suitors to produce the famed hats using the same brand.

The troubles at Borsalino, still a favorite of celebrities such as singer Rihanna and actor Jude Law, started when former majority owner Marco Marenco was stripped of his powers in 2008 and later arrested over alleged bankruptcy and fraud.

Like many small and family-owned companies in the country it lacked the funds and managerial skills to reposition itself in the competitive and fast-moving luxury market.

The company started a relaunch after its management was handed to Haeres Equita, which invested more than 10 million euros with the aim of increasing production, refreshing designs and pushing the brand in more countries, especially in the United States and Asia.

“We are delighted to see the efforts we made in the last three years have come to a happy end,” Camperio said in a statement, adding that his group would continue to develop the brand with new collections and through expansion.

Sales at Borsalino, which produces some 150,000 hats per year, grew to some 17 million euros in 2017 from 15.5 million euros two years earlier.

The proceeds of the auction will be used to pay creditors and the acquisition procedure will be finalised in 10 days.

Reporting by Giulia Segreti, editing by David Evans

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