World News

Shades of Ronaldo; Agnelli heir swoops for soccer star’s sunglasses

By Elvira Pollina

MILAN (Reuters) – Luxury eyewear group Italia Independent <IINT.MI> is hoping to borrow some of Cristiano Ronaldo’s star appeal.

On Wednesday it announced a five-year licensing agreement with the Portuguese forward as it strives to boost revenues after heavy losses last year.

Under the deal, Ronaldo is to design a sunglass collection under his CR7 brand, known for luxury underwear.

The market received the news enthusiastically. Shares were automatically suspended on Milan’s AIM platform for smaller companies on Wednesday after excessive pre-session trading.

Founded by Lapo Elkann, grandson of the late Fiat patriarch Gianni Agnelli, Italia Independent in September reported a 4.4 million euros ($4.9 million) core operating loss in the first half of 2019.

In response, it launched a four-year turnaround plan aiming to more than double its revenue to 42 million euros by 2023.

Elkann, famed for his flamboyant fashion sense, said in a statement the licensing deal had “extraordinary importance” for the company’s growth plans.

Ronaldo’s playing prowess as well as his established marketing appeal helped revenue at his side Juventus <JUVE.MI>, also controlled by the Agnelli family, to grow by 16.5% last year, according to data from consultancy firm Deloitte.

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Editing by Barbara Lewis)