B&B Italia Showroom by Pitsou Kedem

B&B Italia in takeover talks with American suitor

Business news: luxury brand B&B Italia could be sold to a major American furniture group, Dezeen understands.

The family-run Italian furniture company has held discussions with one or more US suitors and is reportedly weighing up an offer.

Industry insiders have linked B&B Italia to US office furniture giants Haworth and Herman Miller, who have both recently acquired luxury furniture brands.

B&B Italia refused to comment, but has denied Italian press reports that it has already been bought by smaller US furniture and office brand Knoll.

A spokesperson said CEO Georgio Busnelli "doesn't want to collect and feed rumours over and over again, giving them time and energy they don't deserve".

Almora lounge chair by Doshi Levien for B&B Italia
Almora lounge chair by Doshi Levien for B&B Italia

Design website Pambianco claimed last week that a deal with Knoll had already been sealed. B&B Italia's spokesperson told Dezeen: "It's not true".

If concluded, a takeover of B&B Italia would be the latest in a series of moves by US office heavyweights over the past year to acquire upmarket design brands.

In February 2014, Haworth announced a deal to purchase Italian design group Poltrona Frau, a move that gave the privately owned American company control of elite Italian brands including Cappellini, Cassina and Alias.

Around the same time Knoll bought American furniture company Holly Hunt. In April, Herman Miller purchased New York textile brand Maharam and then in July acquired US retailer Design Within Reach.

The deals reflect the growth in the luxury furniture sector and the trend towards specifying more informal furnishings in the workplace. This is making glamorous family-run European brands tempting targets for corporate office furnishers, whose traditional markets are being squeezed.

B&B Italia makes high-quality furnishings for the home and the hospitality contract market, working with a stable of international designers including Patricia Urquiola, Barber & Osgerby and Naoto Fukasawa.

Bend-Sofa by Patricia Urquiola
Bend-Sofa by Patricia Urquiola for B&B Italia

Based in Novedrate in Italy's Como province, the brand is managed by brothers Giorgio and Emanuele Busnelli, who are CEO and president respectively. Their father, Piero Ambrogio Busnelli, founded the brand in 1966 and died last year.

In 2011 the Busnelli brothers regained control of the family company from investment house Opera. B&B Italia last month sold its 25% stake in luxury design brand Moooi to the Dutch firm's founders, Casper Vissers and Marcel Wanders.

Haworth, based in Michigan, produces furniture and products for offices including partitions and floor systems. Herman Miller, also based in Michigan, built a reputation as a leader in American furniture design under creative director George Nelson in the 1940s and 50s and was the first manufacturer of the office cubicle. Knoll Inc is headquartered in East Greenville, Pennsylvania, making furniture for the office and home.

B&B Italia's turnover in 2010 was €156 million while Haworth's worldwide sales were $2.1 billion in the same year. Herman Miller's net sales in the same period were $1.3 billion, while Knoll's revenue was $809 million.