PE firm taps wealthy influx to Milan with private members’ club launch

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PE firm taps wealthy influx to Milan with private members’ club launch

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A London-based private equity firm is preparing to launch a private members’ club in a historic Milanese villa, aiming to compete with the likes of Soho House after a wave of wealthy expats poured into Italy’s financial and fashion capital.

Three Hills Capital Partners, the investors behind high-end Italian restaurant group Sant Ambroeus, will open the doors of The Wilde, housed in Santo Versace’s old villa in October, according to people with knowledge of the plans.

The private equity firm founded by Mauro Moretti in 2008 acquired the mansion on the central Via dei Giardini, formerly the private residence of the Versace chair, for a reported €33mn in 2022.

The venue is currently undergoing extensive renovations and once completed it will house an alfresco dining space, a club room, a library and two restaurants over its four floors, according to a marketing presentation.

According to people close to the firm, Three Hills invested an initial €50mn in the transaction and also received a loan from UniCredit.

Three Hills declined to comment.

Thousands of wealthy expats and bankers have moved to Milan since Italy introduced a generous tax break scheme eight years ago.

The country offers one of the most attractive tax incentives in the world with a fixed €100,000 tax on any foreign income for anyone who moves to the country. It also offers a tax-free allowance of up to 70 per cent on income for anyone, Italians or foreigners, who move to Italy from abroad.

Changing tax laws in other countries and Brexit have lured thousands of wealthy individuals to the country according to official data, with the financial hub of Milan a favourite destination.

Sensing an opportunity in a city where historic members’ clubs have traditionally targeted senior male professionals, the likes of Soho House, Casa Cipriani and Core — a members’ club founded in New York with six-digit membership fees — have all set their eyes on Milan, despite some hiccups.

Casa Cipriani opened in 2022 and has been a favourite among bankers and celebrities although the others have been forced to delay their plans. Core recently put off its opening due to issues with the real estate developer, according to people familiar with the matter, and Soho House — which opened in Rome in 2021 — has pencilled 2026 as its launch date after postponing its plans a couple of times.

The Wilde will have a full membership fee of €3,500 plus a €1,250 joining fee. Openings in London, New York and Los Angeles are scheduled between 2025 and 2028, according to one of the people with knowledge of the plans.

Marco Olivieri, its chief executive and a veteran luxury hotel manager, told a luxury hospitality conference last year that the venue wanted to “carve out a new path” banking on exceptional food service and experience.

The luxury hospitality sector is a relatively new one for Three Hills Capital Partners, which has €2.5bn in assets under management.

Before investing in Sant Ambroeus in 2020, it had backed mid-market food companies such as British burger chain Byron, in which it invested in 2013 before exiting on the eve of the pandemic — with the chain then partially collapsing. It also invested in Asian food chain Wagamama in 2018.

Other investments in the sector have included Castellet Hospitality, a budget and midscale hotel group in France.

The private equity firm is also an investor in British boots label Hunter and public relations firm SEC Newgate.

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