Francesco Trapani takes bite into luxury food.


Bulgari scion snaps up stakes in high-end pizzeria and a gelato maker. Francesco Trapani, scion of the Bulgari jewellery dynasty and Tiffany investor, has acquired stakes in a high-end Italian pizzeria chain and a gelato maker, the latest luxury tycoon to move into the “Made in Italy” food business. The investments by Mr Trapani, 61, who sold his family’s stake in Bulgari in 2011 in deal worth €4.8bn, follows buyouts in Milanese coffee house Cova by LVMH and Pasticceria Marchesi by Prada. “Today having someone buy an unbranded product is rare and becoming more rare, and this also applies to food.” “We basically wanted to create a concept in the accessible luxury space with an outstanding product in a full service restaurant,” he said. Mr Trapani made the comments as he opened a fourth restaurant in the Briscola pizzeria chain in Milan. He owns 53 per cent of the company behind Briscola and said he next intends to open in London. The restaurant business was “a colossal market” with an estimated value in Italy alone of €70bn, he added. Meanwhile, Mr Trapani said he has also taken a 51 per cent stake in Geloso, a company making ice creams using only natural ingredients, whose other backers include Allegra Antinori, heiress of the Antinori wine dynasty. He declined to say how much the investment had cost him. Sales of high-end food and wine rose 6 per cent in 2017 to €49bn, according to data from consultancy Bain & Co. The growth is part of a surge in demand for so-called luxury experience, a trend driven by millennials. Mr Trapani, who also owns 5 per cent of Tiffany and was formerly head of the watches and jewellery division at LVMH, said millennials were the “core clientele” for both the pizza and gelato investments because of demand for “niche brands”. Bankers have made a comparison between the potential of Italy’s food industry today and Milan’s fashion industry in the 1980s before it became a global phenomenon. Marco Samaja, head of Lazard in Italy, told a conference in Milan earlier this year that food was the most fertile area for Italy to create a new multinational. “The difference is that we Italians have always been eating,” Mr Trapani said. “But there is an opportunity to upgrade what we eat and sell it to the rest of the world.” He also jokingly compared a taste test for the ice cream to blind perfume tests he used to do with fragrances. Luigi Consiglio, founder of consultants GEA and a food industry expert, said pizza and gelato are two of the most profitable retail operations involving low food cost, low labour cost and relatively high perceived value from a special manufacturing process. He added they are “both icons of Italy best practices that although well known all over the world are very little represented in the original” outside of Italy. “If you asked me to buy shares in those companies, I’d say buy.” Mr Trapani’s latest move is part of a broader trend that is seeing heirs of European industrial dynasties expand into new industries. Mr Trapani said his holding company, which owns the stakes in the food start ups, is based in Luxembourg. He declined to give a value for the holdingbut said the bulk of its investments by value were in securities such as Apple and Google. He said only 5 per cent of his assets were in Italy, citing country risk as behind the decision to keep his financial exposure to his home country limited. The second strand of his investments is in Tiffany, worth $840m at today’s prices. He considers his investment in Tiffany “semi operative” and was involved with finding a new chief executive for the jeweller in Alessandro Bogliolo, who previously worked for Mr Trapani at Bulgari for 16 years. Tiffany reported that worldwide sales rose 11 per cent at constant currency in the first quarter, triggering a surge in its shares price, after Mr Bogliolo refreshed its products to lure younger shoppers. Tiffany [[The US jeweller]] has embraced the food trend too. It opened a restaurant “Blue Box Café” at its Fifth Avenue flagship in the autumn last year. “I have invested quite a big chunk of my liquidity [in Tiffany] and I am helping to change what they are doing with apparently good results.”

WWD  26/06/2018