Shares in Italia Independent tumbled 8.6 percent in mid-morning trading in Milan on today as news broke that the company’s co-founder Lapo Elkann had been arrested in New York for allegedly faking his own kidnapping. Shares of the eyewear company dropped to 2.76 euros, or $2.93 at current exchange rate.
According to U.S. media, Elkann filed a police report over the weekend claiming he had been kidnapped as a coverup for binge drinking and partying. His family reportedly informed the New York police about making a ransom payment. Elkann was released, but ordered to appear in court for arraignment. A representative for Elkann in Italy had no comment.
Elkann posted a video on Instagram on Wednesday saying that he was planning to travel abroad to pursue “a lot of projects” for Italia Independent. “I’ll be seeing many interesting characters in the creative field and in the entrepreneurial field in the next few days.”
The grandson of the late Gianni Agnelli, Elkann is no stranger to media controversy, living the jet-set life and moving in society circles. He made headlines in 2005 when he came close to dying from a drug overdose in Turin, Italy, in a scandal that involved a transsexual prostitute. Elkann then left his position at automaker Fiat and launched his own company, Italia Independent, in 2007, publicly listing it in Milan in the summer of 2013.
In 2015, three Italian paparazzi were accused of blackmailing Elkann and sentenced to prison. They had been convicted of extortion against Elkann, who appeared in a video they had filmed in which the entrepreneur was allegedly under the influence of drugs and behaved in a “compromising” manner. While Elkann initially paid them off to suppress the video, he later reported the conspirators to police.
As reported, Italia Independent is fine tuning its strategies after reporting disappointing first-half figures, hurt by a more complex and competitive business environment and efforts to expand around the world. In the six months ended June 30, Italia Independent reported a net loss of 2.6 million euros, or $2.9 million, on the back of revenues that fell 34.8 percent to 16.3 million euros, or $18.2 million.
Collaborations helped provide positive signs, such as a deal inked with Adidas Originals, or a watch with Hublot. In 2015, Elkann launched Garage Italia Customs, a Milan-based company specializing in vehicle customization.