Creative in private

Tommy Hilfiger sold his company last year. It was the best thing he ever did. Six years ago I was at a party in London when I bumped into American fashion guru Tommy Hilfiger. I asked him how he was. He could barely answer the question, appearing a nervous wreck, thinking long and hard over his every word. All he actually managed to say was “I’m okay thanks.”

  • E-Mail
By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  May 14, 2006

Creative in private|~||~||~|Tommy Hilfiger sold his company last year. It was the best thing he ever did. Six years ago I was at a party in London when I bumped into American fashion guru Tommy Hilfiger. I asked him how he was. He could barely answer the question, appearing a nervous wreck, thinking long and hard over his every word. All he actually managed to say was “I’m okay thanks.” So it was with a little uncertainty and unwillingness that I went to meet Hilfiger last week, during the designer’s visit to Dubai to promote his latest store at Mall of the Emirates. This time, Hilfiger was a changed man. Although now 55, he looked six years younger. He was confident, charming, passionate about his work and unnervingly energetic. So what has changed? The difference, of course, is that six years ago Hilfiger was chief executive of a public company, with sales of US$2 billion. As he now freely admits, he was under the City microscope. Wall Street watched and controlled his every move. Decisions were made to please shareholders, not customers. Short term growth was favoured ahead of long term strategy. Today’s share price, and tomorrow’s quarterly report, were all that mattered. Now, having been taken over by Apax Partners, Hilfiger is on a roll. His creative streak is back, and 25 stores are planned for Dubai alone – to be followed by a furniture store and even a Hilfiger hotel. The Middle East is Hilfiger’s new battle ground, and I suspect he will be victorious in the fashion market. The moral of his story is clear: for creative geniuses, the stock market is no place to be. Remember Richard Branson in the eighties, when he took his Virgin empire onto the London Stock Exchange? It drained him, and nearly destroyed him. He had the sense to get out. Look at Virgin today: a case study in business success. And I predict the same for Tommy Hilfiger. He has sensibly pulled out of major US department stores, who either discounted his clothes or copied them. Or both. He has put in a trusted team of executives to run the company, and free from the chains of analysts and shareholders, he has got his design pencil out again. Not everyone might like his clothes, but make no mistake: Hilfiger is back with a bang.||**||Good performance|~||~||~|This week we feature an interview with Rashid Galadari, boss of Galadari Investment Office (GIO). He may be only 29, and I’m sure cynics would argue that he has only got where he is because of his lineage to the legendary Galadari family. Well, think again. On the business front, GIO’s concept of only developing branded projects may be a real winner. As he explains himself, attaching a well known architect or designer to a project, and giving it a theme, can only add value. By that, I mean re-sale value. So far, US$400 million has been ploughed into the venture, and I think it will provide considerable returns for both GIO and its investors. Most interesting of all though is his suggestion that developers should give clients a “performance bond.” This would, in effect, guarantee that a new building is completed on time, and to the specifications set out in the marketing brochures. And if not, the developers would have to pay up. It’s a brilliant idea, and would give great comfort to international investors.||**||Late penalty|~||~||~|I should take my hat off to the Dubai Financial Market, which, I am sure by coincidence, has responded to my call last week for stiffer penalties against companies that break corporate rules. You may recall that many UAE-listed companies were due to publish their quarterly results no later than May 1st this year. That date came and went. Many companies didn’t bother. And absolutely nothing was done about it. This may have been one of the factors that has contributed to the downturn in the stock market. Investors are concerned about the lack of transparency, and the fact that rules mean little more than the piece of paper they are written on. The DFM’s decision to impose penalties for late reporting is late in itself. But at least it has been taken, and for once, companies will have to do as they promise. Or pay the price.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code