M & A

Rossopomodoro: the drive from the USA

The projects of Henry Jackson, the investor of OpCapita who chose Marco Airoldi, former CEO of Benetton, and Roberto Colombo from Autogrill to lead the Italian pizza chain

American investor Henry Jackson has bought Sebeto – one of the main Italian catering operators – with his fund OpCapita. Sebeto includes Rossopomodoro chain, famous all around the world for Neapolitan pizza. For the Anglo-Saxon fund this is the first step in Italy, after having observed the market for a long time. We are pleased to have finally completed the acquisition of a leading Italian-based company. I think Italian market is a nice market to operate in says Jackson in an interview with Corriere della Sera. Founded in 2006, OpCapita has so far invested around 600 million euros in companies in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and in Spain. It closed the second dedicated fund of 350 million, OpCapita Consumer Opportunities Fund II LP, in 2016. The approach is that of an ‘active’ player, that employs not only financial resources but also his own management to develop investments.

Appointments and new members

Rossopomodoro will not remain an isolated case, considering that for Sebeto-OpCapita Jackson has called two experts: as CEO Roberto Colombo, former financial director of Autogrill, and as Executive vice president Marco Airoldi, former CEO of Benetton Group and former senior partner of Beg. The founders Franco Manna and Pippo Montella will remain minority shareholders and members of the board; Manna as chairman, while Montella will continue to manage relationships with the main suppliers. The areas of interest for this private equity operator are retail, luxury and consumer goods with brands known to the general public; provided they have a turnover between 250 million and one billion, and lower performances than their competitors so as to allow the fund to provide support. We are interested in everything that is consumer-oriented and has the potential to grow, says Jackson. And the catering has potential of this kind. The sector of contemporary and informal-style restaurants in Italy is still in its initial phase, but it is growing rapidly and is already worth about 1.4 billion euros today, with an average increase of 8% per year since 2006. All chains operating in Italy have benefited from this positive trend, and we expect further significant development over the next five years. The phenomenon that the British call ‘chainification’ is a global trend with very significant annual growth rates in European countries, Henry Jackson states. In short, more and more restaurant chains are being used to eat out and have lunch. In Italy as a whole they represented 3% of the market 15 years ago, then rose to 4% ten years ago, and today they are 7%. As Jackson points out, they are still a small share of the market, but in Western Europe we are around 22% while in the USA they represent 56% of the catering market. Rossopomodoro is the second most popular restaurant in Italy after McDonald’s. Before thinking about exporting it to other countries, we are interested in the growth opportunity it has in Italy.

Rossopomodoro and Eataly

Rossopomodoro already has relationships with Eataly, as it is its pizza supplier. This could foreshadow closer relations in the future with the world famous high-end Italian food mall chain. I went to visit some of our restaurants inside Eataly both in the United States and in Italy – underlines Jackson – and you can see that the consumer loves the product. The relationship we have is working, and I think it is a good partner for us.