Dezeen Magazine

Tom Dixon's S Chair for Cappellini

Haworth buys Poltrona Frau to create global furniture brand

News: US office furniture giant Haworth has acquired a majority stake in iconic Italian design brands including Cappellini, Cassina and Alias as part of its $270 million deal with Italian furniture group Poltrona Frau.

The move creates a major global design brand headed by Haworth, a privately owned company based in Michigan which generated $1.4 billion in sales of its office interior systems and furniture in 2013.

The deal means that Haworth now owns design classics such as Tom Dixon's 1989 S Chair (above) as well as a huge back-catalogue of iconic products by leading designers.

The Gebrüder Thonet Vienna and Nemo brands now also come under the control of Haworth, as well as Poltrona Frau's own luxury furniture business.

"Our family is very excited about this opportunity," said Haworth chairman Matthew Haworth. "This transaction is not only inspired by the strong performance of the Poltrona Frau Group and what we believe to be highly complementary strategies, but even more importantly, by the great alignment of the values shared by both our families."

Haworth Inc yesterday announced that it had bought 58.6% of the group from Charme Investments - a investment vehicle set up by Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo - and the Moschini family, the previous owners of Poltrona Frau who retained an interest in the company after it was taken over by Charme.

Poltrona Frau president Franco Moschini said: "This is for me the realization of a big dream, the creation of the most important global operator in the industry of luxury furnishing that will bring great benefits to the international development of the Group and the consequent growth of our factories and manufacturing sites."

Charme acquired Poltrona Frau in 2003 and spent the next three years buying small, independent luxury brands such as Cappellini and Cassina before listing the group on the Italian stock exchange in 2006.

Charme managing director Matteo Cordero di Montezemolo said: “After an investment cycle that lasted more than 10 years, this transaction represents the best conclusion of Charme's adventure in Poltrona Frau Group and is above all an extraordinary opportunity for the strengthening of the group."

He added: "Today Charme has decided to set up a new ambitious phase for Poltrona Frau Group, by creating, together with the Haworth family, the worldwide leader in the industry."

Poltona Frau today has 70 own-brand stores around the world and operates in 65 countries. But it is dwarfed in scale Haworth, which employs 6,000 employees and has over 600 dealers worldwide.

The deal also involves the $1.9 million purchase of the factories in Meda, Italy, that supply Poltrona Frau.

"This transaction with a great industrial group such as Haworth will allow us benefit not only from an extraordinary international development but also from a strong complementarity of products and markets which will be of great advantage for all our Italian factories," said Poltrona Frau managing director Dario Rinero.

"The dimension reached through the combination within the group of two companies respectively of Italian and American culture, will eventually ensure the establishment of a global unique team within the industry," Rinero added.

Poltrona Frau was founded in 1912, specialising in high-quality leather seating for both interiors and automobiles.

Claudio Luti, president of both Milan's Salone del Mobile fair and Italian furniture brand Kartell, welcomed the deal."I think this is good news for the sector and for the country's economy, because it shows that solid, well-managed leading companies are capable of developing synergies at global level and attracting useful foreign capital for further growth strategies," he said.

"It sends an important signal of confidence in the development of our specialist manufacturing skills," Luti added. "It is crucial both that production should remain in Italy and that the consistently high quality of our products be maintained."

The Haworth deal, which is expected to be concluded by the end of April this year, is the latest in a series of consolidations in the design-led furniture industry, which has until recently been made up of small, low-margin businesses.

Vitra's recent acquisition of Artek and Herman Miller's purchase of Maharam, as well as this latest deal, are all intended to create economies of scale and provide access to international markets.