Fosun Triumphs in Bidding War for Lanvin, Troubled Fashion House

Neither Lanvin nor Fosun would disclose financial details for their transaction. The expectation, however, is that Fosun will put a minimum of €100 million ($122 million) into the ailing house, much of which would cover outstanding losses and unpaid salaries.

The Chinese conglomerate, which is controlled by the billionaire Guo Guangchang and owns the French tourism group Club Med, along with the brands Folli Follie, St. John and Caruso, recently entered into acquisition talks with the Italian lingerie brand La Perla.

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Fosun’s acquisition of Lanvin is the latest by Chinese investors looking to build stakes in European luxury assets. Credit Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Lanvin’s current owner and president, Shaw-Lan Wang, who is based in Taiwan and previously held 75 percent of the company, will lose control and become a minority shareholder. The Swiss businessman Ralph Bartel will retain a minority stake.

Until this week, the fortunes of Lanvin had been in a desperate state. Founded by Jeanne Lanvin in 1889, the house had enjoyed a 21st-century revival during the 14-year tenure of the creative director Alber Elbaz, who had forged a loyal client base with collections full of shimmering, jewel-toned cocktail frocks and velvet tuxedos.

But after the acrimonious ousting of Mr. Elbaz by Ms. Wang in October 2015, the company quickly tipped into chaos, with the departure triggering walkouts and the workers’ council suing Lanvin’s management.

A second creative director, Bouchra Jarrar, lasted just 16 months, while a debut collection in September by the brand’s latest hire, Olivier Lapidus, who had outlined his intention to turn Lanvin into the “French Michael Kors,” received dire reviews.

A write-up by the chief fashion critic at The New York Times, Vanessa Friedman, was headlined “How to Wreck a Brand in 3 Years.”

Predictably, Lanvin’s sales plummeted. In 2016, revenues fell 23 percent to €162 million and the company posted its first loss in more than a decade, of €18.3 million. Three people with knowledge of the finances say the losses widened further still in 2017, prompting Ms. Wang to seek fresh investment in order to prevent the company’s collapse.

Hungry investors had circled Lanvin before, spying an opportunity to grow a brand whose financial performance had never quite matched the luxury halo it possessed in a buoyant market.

In 2014, for example, Ms. Wang rejected a bid by Mayhoola of around €400 million. Two people with knowledge of the recent talks said Mayhoola had balked at paying more than €100 million ($122 million) for the brand, leaving Fosun to take up the challenge of underwriting a much hoped-for renaissance.

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