Bally Hunts for New CEO

MILAN — Marco Franchini, the architect behind Bally’s turnaround, left the Swiss fashion label last week after seven years at the helm.

The company said Franchini was leaving for personal reasons and that a replacement had not yet been named.

Footwear execs lauded the CEO’s aggressive overhaul of Bally during his tenure.

“When Marco took over, the Bally business was on its knees, and if it wasn’t for him, the company wouldn’t be in existence,” said Kurt Geiger CEO Neil Clifford, who also served as Bally’s SVP of global sales from 2002 to 2004. “He changed the strategy, the direction and the team, and I thoroughly enjoyed working on the project.”

Franchini spent the initial part of his tenure getting Bally on track financially. By 2004, the firm managed to break even after 16 years of losses. More recently, he worked to bring the brand back into the fashion spotlight, appointing Brian Atwood as creative director in 2007. (Atwood will remain in his position at the Swiss brand.)

Last June, Bally changed hands when Vienna-based Labelux Group acquired it from TPG Capital for an undisclosed sum. TPG bought Bally for an estimated $200 million in 1999.

Bally International President Peter Harf said Labelux remained committed to its investment for the long term and underlined that Franchini’s departure was unrelated to the current economic environment. He added there would be no further management changes and renewed his support for Atwood.

“We face the same difficult economic environment as all other companies in the industry,” Harf said. “However, as a brand with firm, authentic values and a focus on quality, we feel Bally is well positioned to weather this storm. We are excited about its development and we remain committed to making further investments to realize the long-term strategy that has been defined. We take a countercyclical stance and embrace the selective opportunities that this environment brings.”

Harf added that Bally’s goal was to grow into a large and profitable luxury house and that management would focus on optimizing the retail network.

“We will continue with a multichannel strategy of owned retail, franchises, shop-in-shops and wholesale distribution,” he said.

As reported, Bally also launched

its first online store this spring through a partnership with Milan-based Yoox.com.

Franchini said last year that he expected the label to close fiscal 2008 with sales of around 500 million Swiss francs, or $462.7 million at average exchange for the period.

Bally registered revenues of 400 million Swiss francs, or $337.1 million, in 2007. — With contributions from Elisa Anniss

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