Versace names former head of Alexander McQueen as new CEO

By Giulia Segreti

MILAN, May 23 (Reuters) - Italian fashion house Versace named the former head of British brand Alexander McQueen as its new chief executive, in an unexpected move ahead of a planned stock market listing against a backdrop of slowing luxury industry growth.

Jonathan Akeroyd will take over from Gian Giacomo Ferraris who has led family-owned Versace since 2009 and is credited with relaunching the group after it averted bankruptcy in 2004.

The brand famous for its Medusa head logo is seeking a stock market listing after U.S. private equity firm Blackstone bought a 20 percent stake in 2014 to help to fund expansion abroad.

Versace gave no reason for the departure of Ferraris, which comes only two months after the company said creative director Anthony Vaccarello would step down.

Vice president and artistic director Donatella Versace said in a note Akeroyd had been chosen for his proven experience in leading global brands, enhancing them and guiding them towards a strategic development.

Akeroyd had been in the top job at McQueen, part of French conglomerate Kering, since September 2004.

"This is really a surprise. I was expecting Ferraris to take Versace to the stock market, after reviving it successfully in the past few years," Exane BNP Paribas analyst Luca Solca said.

In an interview with Reuters last month, Ferraris warned 2016 would be a tough year with slower sales growth due in part to security worries hitting tourism in European capitals.

He said a possible stock market listing would not take place before 2017. Last year, the company said the listing could take place in Asia or the United States.

Since his appointment seven years ago, Ferraris, an engineer, focused on a radical turnaround of the group, increasing revenue and cutting debt and bringing it back to profit in 2011.

Versace saw revenue rise 17.5 percent in 2015 to 645 million euros ($722.66 million), helped by currency movements.

Like its rivals, the company is having to cope with slowing consumer spending in China, where demand in once-booming cities like Hong Kong remains depressed, and a recession in Russia amid slumping oil prices.

"I can't wait to develop a long-term strategy capable of supporting the creative direction of Donatella Versace and her team," Akeroyd said in a statement.

The British brand revealed his departure earlier this month naming Yves Saint Laurent's Emmanuel Gintzburger as his successor.

Akeroyd, a former merchandising director at London department store Harrods, committed to preserving the brand's creative identity following the death of Alexander McQueen in 2010. ($1 = 0.8925 euros) (Reporting by Giulia Segreti; Editing by Keith Weir and Jane Merriman)

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