The design furniture business is known more for artisanal family companies than multinational conglomerates or corporate takeovers. However, B&B Italia CEO Giorgio Busnelli is trying to take his company, and the industry with it, in a new, growth-driven direction. In its first ‘major milestone’ of growth since being bought by Investindustrial, an investment company headed by Italian Andrea Bonomi, B&B Italia has just acquired luxury kitchen company Arclinea. The merger follows that of DePadova and Boffi in 2015, as well as Molteni&C’s acquisition of Dada in 1979, and Busnelli does not plan to stop here.
He told Frame that the acquisition is a vital step in the new growth trajectory on which the company is embarking since becoming part of the Investindustrial group. ‘It’s our ambition to grow in two directions, the home market and the contract market,’ he said. ‘Arclinea is a natural first acquisition for us to complete and enlarge our offer in both markets. Also, its style is very aligned with our own. In fact, we’ve known the Fortuna family for a long time, and they are staying actively involved in the business.’
With a turnover of 180mn euros a year as opposed to Arclinea’s 20 mn, B&B Italia is well placed to support the growth of the smaller company, says Busnelli, for example through distribution, including via its new Madison Avenue and Paris stores. ‘We think Arclinea will be a great asset to us in the contract business, particularly in the high-end apartment-building sector that has been so successful in Asia and America,’ he adds. ‘Also, as we are gravitating towards bigger flagship stores, we increasingly need to present a total lifestyle view, and Arclinea’s kitchen offering will play a role in that.’
Nevertheless, the idea is not to create a B&B Italia kitchen, he insists: ‘We love the Arclinea project. However, we will certainly exchange knowledge and ideas on materials and finishing, probably coming up with some new solutions.’
So does this mean that the design kitchen is about to dissolve into our living space? ‘We already see that the kitchen is entering the living area,’ says Busnelli. ‘However, in Asia that concept doesn’t really work. There, the kitchen is the place where the staff cook. In Europe and the USA, the mentality is different and everyone likes to cook. In luxury apartments now, we typically see two kitchens – a working kitchen and a “show” kitchen for entertaining friends.’
Meanwhile, acquiring Arclinea is only the beginning for B&B’s growth ambitions. He foresees further mergers ahead – ‘ideally one a year for the next three years’ – and doesn’t rule out one with a lighting company. However, Flos is also part of Investindustrial’s portfolio, and ‘we are already collaborating with Flos on displays in our stores and market information as part of the same group. But I have my eye on several Italian and European companies. The only problem is to convince them to share my vision.’ No doubt B&B Italia’s future targets will be keeping a close eye on how the merger with Arclinea pans out. For now though, as Busnelli admits, ‘We’re still in a largely family-run industry.’