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European private equity firm Investindustrial will buy a majority stake in Eataly to accelerate the upmarket Italian food chain’s global expansion, the two companies said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

The sale comes after family-owned Eataly suffered a blow like other retailers from the COVID-19 pandemic and it also expands Investindustrial’s involvement in the food sector.

The deal envisages a capital increase worth €200-million ($264.9-million) as well as a further investment by Investindustrial to purchase shares held by the current investors.

The accord gives the company an enterprise value of more than €400-million before the planned capital increase, a source close to the matter told Reuters.

Eataly has 44 outlets in 15 different countries, which sell high quality Italian food and host some restaurants.

Last year Eataly opened a new flagship store in London and it is planning further new launches, including smaller stores in the United States where it already has eight of its flagship stores in locations including New York and Los Angeles.

Investindustrial, advised by UniCredit, will get 52 per cent of Eataly, which is currently controlled by the Farinetti family with a 58-per-cent stake and the Baffigo-Miroglio family with a 20-per-cent stake.

The capital injection will allow the “opening of flagship stores and the development of new formats, as well as enabling the acquisition of all the minority shares in Eataly’s existing U.S. business,” the statement said.

Chief executive officer Nicola Farinetti will become chairman and a new CEO will be announced shortly. The company was founded in 2003 by his father, Oscar Farinetti.

It had looked at a possible listing in recent years, but profitability never took off and the pandemic made things more difficult.

The company reported revenues of €464-million in 2021, with core earnings of €14-million, and forecasts a €600-million turnover this year.

Clubitaly, an investment company in which the major shareholder is TIP – Tamburi Investment Partners S.p.A., said it would not sell any of its 20-per-cent shareholding in Eataly and would acquire a further stake.

Investindustrial, which brought Italian luxury group Ermenegildo Zegna to the market in New York last year, has recently invested over €2.5-billion in the food sector.

In August it bought Texas-based toppings maker Parker Food and a “significant portion” of the food making division of TreeHouse Food.