Tyre firm Vittoria has been bought by an Milan-based private equity house in a deal that sees the company return to Italian ownership following three decades in Dutch hands that have seen employee numbers grow from 180 to 1,300 with annual turnover of around €60 million and some 7 million tyres produced each year.
The sale comes as the company’s president, Rudie Campagne who led its acquisition by Netherlands-based investors in 1990, takes retirement at the age of 76.
His position, as well as that of CEO, has been taken up by Stijn Vriends, a partner at Wise Equity, the Italian private equity fund that has bought the business.
Over the years, the company’s tyres have been ridden to victory in many of cycling’s biggest races including all three Grand Tours plus Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, as well as 32 Olympic gold medal, whilst its neutral service arm has supported events including the Giro d’Italia.
Among the company’s innovations was the use of graphene – which it says is “200 times stronger than steel, 200,000 times thinner than a single hair” – for the first time in a commercially available bicycle tyre in 2015, following four years of research involving 500 prototypes, with the new product, as well as its graphene bicycle wheel, immediately increasing annual turnover by 15 per cent.
Campagne, who will stay on with the company as a non-executive board member and has also been named its honorary chairman for life, said: “Me and my partners eventually always wanted to bring the brand home to Italy, the cradle of the cycling world. Turning over the reins to Wise Equity therefore feels like the completion of a cycle.”
The company is relocating its headquarters to a new €7 million office, test centre and logistics complex in Bergamo, northern Italy, with a strong focus on product strategy and research, giving rise to the decision to bring in new investment and leadership.
Incoming president and CEO Vriends sees urban mobility, and especially e-bikes, as presenting a major opportunity for the company alongside its existing focus on sports.
“It's more exciting than ever to be part of the ever-changing urban mobility landscape and our graphene tyre technology, developed for sport bicycles, can now become our dominant competitive edge in the urban bike category, as graphene tyres are ideal for city-and-e-bikes which need long endurance tyres that don't run flat,” he said.
As part of that, at the end of June the company launched its latest range of tyres specially aimed at the e-bike market with what it calls a “Battery Saving Compound” to help batteries last longer.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.