Fostering Fair and Gracious Growth
Speech for the company’s listing on the Milan Stock Exchange
Milan, 27 April 2012
I am so thrilled and honored to be here, in this context, and for such an important occasion. I have to admit that luck is on my side: since I probably know most of you already, I’m sure you’ll understand if all this excitement might lead me to make a mistake. I am indeed excited, and I want to tell you that my lifelong dream has always been this: to make the work of man more humane, and to seek a listing on the stock exchange so that this business can thrive for the next fifty to one hundred years. After all, I’ve always imagined that a business should definitely have projects lasting three months, three years, and three centuries – which is the goal I’ve set my sights on, in this case.
What a beautiful experience this has been. When Gianluca Vacchi and I - I’ve known Gianluca for many years and consider him to be a very special, efficient, and extremely smart advisor-friend - decided to choose Merrill Lynch and Mediobanca without resorting to an auction, we all sat down for a meeting, and I asked: “Is there anything special that we can do?”. Maurizio Tamagnini and Stefano Rangone promptly replied: “We should design a special suit, a bespoke suit”.
People had always told me that the “roadshow” involved repeating the same things for about thirty minutes; if you multiply that by twelve times a day, you can’t help but feel exhausted in the evening and feel like you’ve had enough! This is why I came up with an unprecedented idea: why don’t we invite the top investors to Solomeo? I’ve always believed that the most important thing is to be convincing. And so we immediately started to welcome them to Solomeo.
I’d also like to mention the iconic claim we chose for the initial public offering, a rather charming statement: “The value of dignity: Brunello Cucinelli lists on the Italian Stock Exchange”.
So, starting in September, the investors started to flock to Solomeo: they met with us and toured the company, we sat down for discussions, and they dined at our home. And then for the following eight months, we kept in touch by phone. Finally, it was time for the “roadshow”, which – I have to admit – also included some pretty crazy moments! Just imagine: we’d go to bed at one in the morning, never quite sure of where we were, and then the alarm would go off at five a.m. At six-thirty we’d have our first meeting, in which we did indeed have to repeat the same formula for about thirty minutes: “I’m tall, blond, and beautiful”, etc. By the time it was five or six p.m., we couldn’t believe how worn out we were!
On a more serious note, I’ve always wondered how a human being could possibly make you understand what a company stands for in just a half hour, if you’ve never visited it, if you’ve never admired the beauty of a place, or spoken with the people? If we hadn’t met in person beforehand, I can’t help but wonder what we would have been able to accomplish. So this experience was truly special, and I think the banks were ever so understanding in allowing us to put it into practice; it was so kind of them. The two banks also proved their graciousness by practically deciding the price on their own, and choosing a very narrow price range. What this means is that they had studied this case, this particular business, very thoroughly.
I’ve always had in mind Adam Smith’s doctrine on the “wealth of nations”, which is taught at school. It’s a truly exceptional vision. However, this influential Scottish philosopher and economist’s “theory of moral sentiments” is even more exceptional. You see, I’m convinced that it’s crucial to respect the work of others. As I worked with the banks I said: “You do your job, and I’ll do the only thing I can do, which is to be a manufacturer”. This is what we’ve always sought to do; we’ve worked to create a manufacturing business.
When we met with the investors, as I mentioned previously, it was a really special moment because we negotiated with the top names hailing from the United States, the UK, Italy, etc. We explained our business philosophy to them, and made it quite clear that we wanted to seek a sustainable and gracious profit (we had a hard time trying to translate the Italian word “garbato” - respectable and kind - into English, however the interpreter saved the day in the end!). We explained that our underlying intention was to imagine a company that could grow without harming humanity, or at least do as little harm as possible.
We spoke about the dignity of work, and perhaps you’ll be surprised by how highly regarded Italy is! I’d presumed that Italy was a bit less credible, and yet you experts have seen how we’ve covered the book eighteen times. This means that Italy is indeed credible; it means that we are a serious nation, a nation with expertise.
Foreigners have been intrigued by this Italian company’s philosophy, by the value of skilled hands that work with dignity, pride, and curiosity: hands that work. Everyone was fascinated by the concept of restoring moral and economic dignity to work; after all, how can we build thriving businesses when workers only make 980 euro or so per month? It’s just not possible!
You have to believe me when I say that all the investors – everyone, no exceptions, even the top ones – have understood that human beings must earn proper wages, and be able to live a more dignified life. Everyone should work the right amount of hours; everyone should be online for the right amount of time, and so on.
So this is the concept we shared all over the world, and we came home with what I believe are wonderful results: the value of human and moral dignity, but also the image of a healthy Italy. After all, how could we have received these offers if Italy weren’t credible? Sometimes Italian companies are turned down because the country is considered to be at risk; however I simply don’t believe that, and in fact we weren’t turned down.
We wanted to search for new partners who could serve as true guardians of this business for the next century. Some of you know me well: humanity’s greatest thinkers have led me to feel that I am a guardian of this business, and not the owner. While I’m definitely the majority shareholder, I’m not - I repeat - an owner, but a guardian! The concept of guardianship itself intrigues me, and I’d always imagined starting a company with a scope that’s more international than most companies. I wanted a business that is open to the world. And I envisioned that perhaps one day, my two little girls – well, they are no longer little because they are twenty-nine and twenty-one, and I’m also a grandfather! – could run this company with other managers by their side, and also feel responsible in their own way for the world, our community, and our Italy.
Therefore, if you asked me for my opinion, I’d say that I strongly believe in a new capitalism, a new contemporary Humanistic Capitalism. How was this idea sparked? Well, today young people know about everything; by the time they’ve reached their early 20s, they’ve already been informed about all manner of things in real time, and so we are no longer credible if we aren’t true to ourselves. This is why we need a Humanistic Capitalism, in which enlightenment and romanticism merge together, in which the mind and soul can meet. I think that an idea like this one, which originates in the mind and then moves on to the soul, is a beautiful idea.
We can no longer lie, there’s a kind of moralization of mankind at play. However this moralization hasn’t just popped out of nowhere, since human beings have an intrinsic need for morality. We could venture to say that especially today, morality is also inevitable. Because at this point, everything is common knowledge for everyone, and so if we don’t provide authenticity, as I said before, we will no longer be credible.
And so this roadshow experience has been truly wonderful, in the sense that a very serious relationship has been established between a manufacturer and the banks. However the allocation aspect wasn’t easy; as I mentioned previously, we had a request that was eighteen times higher than the offer, so we ended the roadshow halfway through - though we certainly didn’t do this to be snobbish. We were lucky to be able to cover the book so quickly, as we’d previously met the investors; if we hadn’t had that chance, we would have encountered difficulties in allotting the shares. I trust that the allocation made by my two highly regarded banks has been done graciously, since that is their usual way of working.
Therefore I’d like to thank everyone immensely, starting with Gianluca Vacchi. I want to thank my credit institutions for establishing such an excellent rapport with us. I want to thank my highly valued analysts who have done an excellent job: in an exemplary manner, Flavio Cereda and Chiara Rotelli performed the delicate task of going to the investors and convincing them to invest in a company which seeks profit, yet wants a healthy profit that can be fair and must never be preposterous. At the end of all my meetings with the investors I would say: “If you’re looking for a business that you expect to make a profit by harming mankind, then you shouldn’t join us; if you’re looking for a company which you expect to experience major growth with no respect for craftsmanship, quality, and an exclusive product, then this is not the right company for you, just don’t buy it”!
So I’m very proud of all of this, and I also owe a debt of gratitude to you journalists: you have written stories about us with great poetry and love, and we are grateful to you for that: our company, our Umbria, and our Italy are all grateful to you. Speaking of which, I’d like to suggest that we try and speak more kindly of Italy; let’s abandon this idea that this country is falling apart! I really don’t agree with this negative vision of things. Look, there are visible signs that a golden era is upon us; there are visible signs of a new, strong awareness, and a return to great ideals. In fact, during the roadshow I noticed how people paid careful attention to these great ideals.
You may not believe it, but I met with fifty-year old men with years of experience who got teary-eyed as we spoke about the dignity of human beings. I believe this is the most beautiful message I can convey here today. It’s the most beautiful message for our Italy, which is a country that believes in quality, and is full of respectable people who roll up their sleeves and get to work. This is why I am confident about the years to come.
I also want to offer my deep gratitude to all the lawyers who have worked with us! Let me tell you an amusing story: when we decided to go public, in January 2011, so many lawyers flocked to Solomeo. When the evening came, I saw that the houses where they were staying in town were lit up until midnight. So I told the lawyers: “No, this isn’t our way of working, you should stop working at six or seven in the evening because Saint Benedict (who has also graced us with sun, today) once said: ‘Human beings need to rest every day; the soul must be fed with prayer, and the mind with study and work’”.
And that’s not all. Benedict also said: “Try to be strict and sweet, a demanding teacher, and a loving father”. Now I don’t know if I am loving and sweet, but I am definitely strict and demanding. And I am so very grateful to you all, so grateful to the people who work with me in the company. However please remember that the person standing in front of you is a guardian. This concept has become a part of me, and we are seeking new guardians who believe in this company.
Thank you so much, everyone!
Brunello with his wife Federica and daughters Camilla and Carolina on the day of the listing on the Milan Stock Exchange