This Italian tale started life in the Emilia Romagna region of the 1960s, with the founding of Selene, a company active in the production of infants' wear. Selene underwent expansion, perhaps too hastily and to too great an extent, through a series of loans, until it consisted of four listed companies (MBFG and Antichi Pellettieri, joined by Greenvision and Bioera, active players in environmental resources, controlled by the Burani family via Green Holding), as well as a number of different brand names, ranging from clothing to leather goods and jewellery to footwear.
The number of brand acquisitions and licensing agreements chalked up as of the early 1990s was striking (it was only in 1977 that Mariella lent her name to the group’s best known label). In short, what began as an entrepreneurial adventure in the clothing sector started up by a husband with a flair for business and his stylist wife rapidly developed into a full-blown empire, built up little-by-little through the acquisition of small and medium businesses both in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. The growth was to such an extent that the international press has thrown the company from Reggio Emilia into the spotlight, especially in recent months; that is, from the moment Burani Designing holding was declared bankrupt and the Mariella Burani Fashion Group's state of insolvency was announced.
"Adminstrators Appointed at Burani", ran the headline of the American site, wwd.com, “Mariella Burani to file for bankruptcy protection", wrote the London-based Drapersonline.com, while France's Les Echos declared: “Le groupe italien Mariella Burani va être liquidé”. Such attention was only to be expected, given that as recently as 2007 the company had registered consolidated revenue in the region of Euro 700 million. Yet it seemed a far cry from the reserved style associated with the Burani family, reluctant to tread the boards of fashion events, with the exception of those closely linked to fashion shows and launches for the stores home to the MBFG galaxy's brands. But let us return our focus to the acquisitions, which started with the purchase of Mila Shön and Dimensione Moda, dating back to 1999, and of luxury knitwear label Gabriella Frattini in 2000.
In 2001 Antichi Pellettieri was founded, becoming the holding company for the recently acquired Baldinini, Mario Cerutti, Enrico Mandelli and Mafra brands. The following year the Burani family took control of both GFM Industria Spa, owner of the Ter et Bantine brand, and 50% of Germany’s René Lezard Mode Gmbh. 2006, meanwhile, proved to be one of their most dynamic years: through Antichi Pellettieri a 51% stake in Coccinelle was acquired, along with 51% in Facco, 50% in Rosato and 60% in Valente Gioiellieri. On July 7, 2006, Antichi Pellettieri became listed on the Italian stock exchange (MBFG having already been listed since 2001). In 2007, 100% of Dadorosa, the worldwide licensee of the Gherardini brand, was acquired via the Braccialini label. In 2008 it was the turn of Finduck srl, holding company of the well-known Mandarina Duck brand. In short, psychologists would be quick to define this as a clear example of compulsive luxury shopping. But where was the Burani family finding the funds, while in the meantime (in 1989 to be precise), they also introduced their two children, Giovanni and Andrea, into the company? Quite simply, they were borrowing from banks, which is how, as the years went on, their debts came to exceed Euro 500 million. To give a precise figure, on September 30, 2009 the four listed companies’ aggregate net debt stood at 633.1 million. It is of no great surprise, then, to learn that amongst the e-mails that the Milan Public Prosecutor’s office intercepted on the company’s computers, the following were found: “La liquidità è esaurita, non possiamo più procedere al pagamento delle fatture” (All our liquidity has been used up, we can’t pay the bills anymore), “Nooh, ma è un disastro!” (Oh no, this is a disaster!).
With the Reggio Emilia Court’s bankruptcy division declaring the Mariella Burani Fashion Group to be in a state of insolvency and placing the company under compulsory administration, Francesco Ruscigno was nominated receiver. The officially-appointed receiver has 30 days to organize a meeting. Once this meeting has been arranged, which should happen by mid-April, a second hearing will take place, at which point the Court will formally launch the compulsory administration proceedings.