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Prodos Makes Bid for Gianfranco Ferre; Brand Designers Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi May Not Stay Under New Owners

Will New Owners Mean New Designers at Gianfranco Ferre?

>> Douglas Song, an executive at US private equity firm Prodos, which has emerged as the final bidder for Gianfranco Ferre, attended the label's fashion show on Friday. Prodos, together with Samsung, has made a binding offer of just more than €10 million ($13.5 million) for the brand, which went into bankruptcy protection last year. The Italian government is expected to make a final decision on the offer within two weeks' time.

It is understood that of the five bidders for Ferre since the auction process launched in June, Prodos and Samsung prevailed because of their deep pockets, vital for the expensive relaunch of the brand which has struggled since the death of its namesake designer three years ago. Already, Ferre has pulled out of many markets; in the US, only Bergdorf Goodman still sells it.

As part of the deal, Prodos has committed to keep the company's 150 employees; sources indicate the new owners also plan to open stores in Asia through franchise partners. As for the Ferre's current designers, Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi, whose expensive designs place the brand in competition with the likes of Chanel, it is unclear whether they will stay.

As the Wall Street Journal wrote of the just-shown Spring 2011 Ferre collection: "The challenge for Ferre’s new owners will be to build up a new following for this tarnished house. They may need to start with less-expensive clothing than what was shown Friday." And Style.com noted: "In general, this collection didn't have the distinctive point of view you expect not only from these designers, but also from one of Milan's once major houses."

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