Swiss-South African billionaire Ivan Glasenberg, the former chief executive of Glencore PLC GLNCY, is on the verge of adding famed Italian racing bicycle maker Pinarello to his emerging portfolio of high-end biking gear.
The deal, which is expected to be announced by the end of June, would see Mr. Glasenberg peg Pinarello’s enterprise value (debt and equity) at about €190-million ($273-million). The brand is used by some of the top racers in the world. Pinarello bikes have won seven Tour de France races, two Giro d’Italia, one Vuelta and dozens of national titles and classic events, such as Paris-Nice, which it has dominated in recent years.
Mr. Glasenberg’s pursuit of Pinarello, which is based in Treviso, in northern Italy, has been rumoured for some months. Rome’s Il Messaggero reported earlier this week that a deal was close. Neither Mr. Glasenberg nor Pinarello have confirmed or denied the story. They declined to comment on Friday.
Pinarello is owned by the L. Catterton, a private equity fund based in Connecticut that takes stakes in consumer brands and has about US$30-billion in assets under management. The firm, which is backed by the French luxury group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, bought a majority stake in Pinarello in 2017.
The company has concentrated on producing light, fast racing bikes that are coveted by professional and amateur racers. It recently added mountain bikes to its portfolio. The company was started in 1953 by Giovanni Pinarello, who began making bikes when he was a teenager. A famous early model was the Pinarello Montello SLX, which was made of steel and used a drivetrain made by Italy’s Campagnolo. The bike won the 1984 Summer Olympics road race in Los Angeles.
The top Pinarello bikes cost €15,000 or more, as much as small cars or big motorcycles.
Giovanni’s son, Fausto, the company’s chairman, will stay as a minority shareholder, with Mr. Glasenberg taking about 80 per cent, according to Italian reports. Fausto will remain at the bike maker for continuity, production, management and marketing purposes. “I like beautiful bikes, I think everyone does,” Fausto told Rouleur magazine last year.
Mr. Glasenberg, 66, was CEO of Glencore, the world’s biggest commodities trader and one of the biggest mining companies, from 2002 until mid-2021 and owns 10 per cent of the company, making him one of the richest men in Europe. His net worth is US$7.8-billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He lives in Switzerland, is a keen cyclist and was once a champion race walker.
While Glencore pursues Teck Resources – it offered to merge with Canada’s premier diversified mining company in April – Mr. Glasenberg has been building what seems set to become a luxury sports products empire.
So far, he has concentrated on Italian brands. In 2021, shortly after he stepped down as Glencore’s boss, he bought a significant stake in privately held Q36.5, a relatively new brand that specializes in high-tech clothing for amateur, but dedicated, athletes. It also sponsors a pro racing team.
The company is headquartered in Bolzano, near the Austrian border, and considers itself a pioneer in woven fabrics that dry quickly, support muscles and improve thermal regulation. With its Canadian partner, Alpha Velo, Q36.5 has a small boutique in Toronto and is emerging as a competitor to Rapha, the much bigger U.S. biking sportswear and lifestyle company owned by an investment firm controlled by Steuart Walton.
“I think it can grow into a big sportswear company,” Mr. Glasenberg told The Globe and Mail in a 2021 interview, noting that the sportswear industry is highly fragmented. “There is massive growth potential in this industry. Athletes want higher quality material.”