The French government is pinning its hopes on Sheikh Hassan bin Ali Al Nuaimi, a member of the ruling family of Ajman, to save the ailing fashion house Christian Lacroix. The move comes after the Paris Court of Commerce on Tuesday approved a restructuring plan for the label that will see it end its baroque-inspired haute couture line, cut 100 jobs and spread repayments to creditors over 10 years. Sheikh Hassan, a nephew of Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid, the Ruler of Ajman, emerged as the front-runner to acquire the company in October with an offer that would have saved the jobs of most of the firm's employees and retained both its haute couture and ready-to-wear divisions.
Christian Estrosi, the French minister of industry, said the court's decision did not rule out the possibility of a buyer emerging within weeks. "Sheikh Hassan bin Ali Al Nuaimi has not shown a desire to withdraw as the buyer of the house of Lacroix," Mr Estrosi said on his website. "[I have] mobilised the French diplomatic network in the UAE to alert the sheikh to the urgency of the situation. [We] are aware of the difficult financial climate in Dubai, which could obviously slow down or cause a delay in the sheikh's offer."
Bernard Krief Consulting also made a 100 million (Dh554m) bid for Christian Lacroix, of which 12m was put up by Midex Airlines, a cargo carrier based in Abu Dhabi. Doubts were cast over the two bids last month, when the label's court-appointed administrator Regis Valliot said Sheikh Hassan and Bernard Krief Consulting had failed to submit financial guarantees proving they had the liquidity to support their proposals.
Sheikh Hassan could not be contacted for comment yesterday, but on Tuesday said he was still open to making an offer for Christian Lacroix despite the court's ruling. "If the strategy and focus is in line with all parties, we will talk to consultants to see what's best," Sheikh Hassan said. "This isn't a charity cause. We want Lacroix to have a good business model [and] we would like to revive it.
"From the [court's] ruling, it is obvious that the government sees the couture house as French heritage." The court accepted the turnaround plan by Christian Lacroix's owner, the Falic Group, a duty-free company based in the US. Falic bought the company from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 2005. Christian Lacroix has not made a profit since Bernard Arnault, the chief executive of the luxury retail conglomerate LVMH, set it up in 1987. The label booked a 10m loss last year on sales of 30m.
The luxury retail sector has been severely impacted by the global financial crisis, which has forced many fashion houses to abandon their expensive haute couture lines and concentrate on their ready-to-wear and accessories divisions. * additional reporting by Hadeel al Sayegh @Email:email@example.com