Exor sets up joint-venture company Nuo with Wwicl to invest in Italian brands
There seems to be no stopping Exor, which is regularly mentioned by the Italian media as potentially engaged in creating a major luxury conglomerate in Italy. After buying Chinese label Shang Xia, and a 24% stake in Christian Louboutin, the Agnelli family’s holding company has joined forces with World-Wide Investment Company Limited (Wwicl), Hong Kong’s oldest family office, to create an investment company whose goal is to acquire equity stakes in attractive Italian consumer brands.
In a press release, Exor heralded the “partnership between two multi-generational entrepreneurial families, to invest in and support the global development of medium-sized Italian companies specialising in consumer goods excellence.” To do so, Wwicl and Exor have created a joint-venture company, Nuo, in which both partners hold a 50% stake.
Wwicl was founded in 1960 by business mogul Yue-Kong Pao, who at the time was at the helm of one of the world's largest commercial fleets, and is now run by one of Pao’s heirs, Stephen Cheng. Wwicl has already been conducting business in Italy for some time. In 2016, Cheng set up the Nuo Capital investment fund with Tommaso Paoli, a former director at Italian bank Intesa-San Paolo, who is now in charge of the newly founded company Nuo Spa.
In the last few years, Nuo Capital has focused its interest on niche Italian brands, acquiring stakes in a dozen or so companies in the wine, design, high tech and apparel sectors. Nuo Capital made its first investment in the fashion sector in 2018, when it bought a minority stake in label-retailer Slowear.
In 2019, it snapped up a 30% stake in Florentine cosmetics group Ludovico Martelli, which owns a number of brands, the best-known being Proraso, specialised in men’s grooming products, and toothpaste producer Marvis. Wwicl has endowed Nuo with its equity stake in Ludovico Martelli, as well as with some fresh capital. Nuo starts with an initial capital of €300 million, provided in equal parts by both partners, with Exor contributing only financially.
“Nuo will provide not only capital but also support on how to achieve greater scale while continuing to nurture the culture and uniqueness that differentiate its companies,” the partners said in a press release.
John Elkann, CEO of Exor, which controls among others Ferrari, Italian football club Juventus and automobile manufacturer Stellantis, is a firm believer in Italy’s entrepreneurial tradition, well-known for its “SMEs with strong expertise, renowned creativity and brand authenticity in consumer goods, and particularly in the high-end segments of the market.”
With his partner Cheng, CEO of Wwicl, Elkann said he is especially keen to foster “Italy's high quality, dynamic SMEs, with their wonderful products and tradition, which have true potential to become great companies of tomorrow.”
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