Prada is probably the best example of a luxury-brand holding company that, despite its 2011 IPO in Hong Kong, is still run by the family and yet has grown to mammoth proportions: between US$10 billion and US$15 billion. Giorgio Armani is also still controlled by its founder, even though it now does nearly US$3 billion in annual sales. Gucci and Bulgari are the ones that got away. While the names remain Italian, French companies now own them. This arrangement is what Italian family-held companies fear. In a larger sense, it is what Italy fears as a nation. How long will Italy continue to defend its own, in the same manner that a family bares its claws to protect its pups in the words of one fashion CEO? Economists suspect that protectionists have learned their lesson and expect fewer barriers to foreign investment in the future. At least it’s easy to understand why Italians can be so prickly about foreign power brokers meddling in their affairs” easy, that is, for those who have read their history.
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