Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata and Italian sports carmaker Ferrari’s Chairman, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, have much in common.

Even as the duo have teamed up for the $1.8-billion Orient-Express Hotels bid, Poltrona Frau Group, a high-end furniture and design company from Montezemolo's stable, is already a partner with Tata Sons.

The group is touted as the largest company in the world in the luxury furniture segment.

Casa Decor, the joint venture company, was established in 2008 to expand and promote the Poltrona Frau Group brands in India.

The over hundred-year-old company entered the Indian luxury retail market with a store at Kalaghoda in Mumbai, to infuse India’s luxury interiors segment with distinctive Italian style.

From its beginning as a small entrepreneurial group in the ‘50s, Poltrona Frau grew to be a large manufacturer in the luxury furniture segment, and a market leader by the '80s.

In 2003, private equity fund Charme, headed by Luca Montezemolo, acquired a major stake in the Poltrona Frau group. This was followed by the acquisition of the Cassina and Cappellini brand.

The Montezemolo and Charme Group, which have teamed up for Orient-Express Hotels, that includes the Cipriani in Venice and other European high-end hospitality assets, are renowned in Italy and abroad as reputable investors in leading luxury group companies.

Mentezemolo's Charme Fund typically invests in Italy. The active presence of Montezemolo and Partners, as manager of Charme Fund, by Indian Hotels in its bid, is set to be extremely strategic for supporting the Italian assets and operations of Orient-Express Hotels.

There is more to the Italian connect. Montezemolo, is on the board of Fiat.

A long time friend of Ratan Tata, he convinced Tata to come on the Fiat board. Their close friendship resulted in Fiat and Tata Motors joining hands in India.

Montezemolo's private company, Montezemolo and Partners, is to invest $100 million for a minority stake in Orient-Express Hotels.

Indian Hotels is cobbling $650 million in equity, and funding the remainder via other Tata entities plus debt from ICICI Bank, Standard Chartered and Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, which are advising the Indian major.

(This article was published on November 25, 2012)
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