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04 Dec 2020, Edition - 1970, Friday

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Versace fans vent fury over $2.1bn sale to Michael Kors



US fashion giant Michael Kors has confirmed a $2.1bn takeover of Versace in a move that has outraged some fans of the Italian fashion house.

Creative director Donatella Versace’s social media accounts have been swamped by loyal fans pleading with her to keep the brand independent.

One said they would “end it all” if the sale went ahead.

Donatella has run Versace since the 1997 murder of her brother Gianni, who founded the firm four decades ago.

Many of the comments are unrepeatable, but one common theme is a fear that the brand they revered would lose its unique quality.

Its distinctive brand of glitz has been worn by some of the world’s highest-profile stars and graced the pages of newspapers and magazines more often than almost any other luxury fashion brand.

A key moment came in 1994 when the unknown Elizabeth Hurley accompanied boyfriend Hugh Grant to the premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral. The tabloids could not believe the sight.

Versace, until then just another Italian fashion brand, became synonymous with “That Dress”.

The brand is most valued by the glitzier ranks of the famous, with Michael Jackson and Princess Diana among its fans. She attended Gianni Versace’s funeral, along with Elton John, who has also been a keen wearer of Versace.

The newer generation include Nicki Minaj, a clutch of Kardashians and Jenners, and the Beckham family, who are among the mere 161 people Donatella follows on Twitter.

But those fearing a despoiling of the Versace magic may be worrying unnecessarily.

Michael Kors itself joined the stock market in 2011.

It has gained new experience handling other luxury brands. Last year it bought Jimmy Choo, another tabloid fashion favourite, the luxury shoemaker founded in London, for almost £900m.

The Versace deal adds significantly to Kors’ luxury portfolio.

The Versace family owns 80% of the company, with the remaining 20% owned by the private equity firm Blackstone Group.

It reported sales of €686m for 2016 and chief executive Jonathan Akeroyd said earlier this year that annual turnover was soon expected to exceed €1bn.

With Donatella herself staying on, it is possible fans will not notice any change. After all, why buy a well-loved business and tear up what makes it appealing?

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