Breakingviews: Activist applies some Italian polish to Tiffany’s

Tom Buerkle
Shoppers carry Tiffany & Co. bags
Mark Kauzlarich | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tiffany is ready for a little more Italian polish. After some four decades of leaning on Elsa Peretti's style sensibility, the struggling luxury U.S. retailer has embraced the overtures of former Bulgari boss Francesco Trapani alongside Barry Rosenstein's Jana Partners, giving them three board seats and a strong voice in the selection of a new chief executive. They bring strong track records, but some haste would be in order to restore the $11.4 billion company's luster.

A strong dollar, declining tourism and a tired product line have taken their toll on Tiffany. The company's one percent sales rise in its latest quarter, ended Oct. 31, was its first in two years. Tiffany shares have significantly under-performed the Index over the last five years, and they fetch a notably lower valuation than larger rival Richemont. Difficulties persist, including security headaches for its flagship Manhattan store sharing a block with Trump Tower and the departure earlier this month of CEO Frederic Cumenal. Managerial talent and fresh ideas are in high demand.