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Prada's IPO case study by Denis Gromb wins The Case Centre Awards 2018 in Finance

For the third time in three years, an HEC Paris professor has bagged a Case Centre Award for a bestselling case study. Professor of Finance Denis Gromb won the 2018 prize in the Finance, Accounting and Control category for “Prada’s Hong Kong IPO”, a study he co-wrote with Associate Professor at ESCP Europe, Alberta Di Giuli. 

Prada's IPO case study by Denis Gromb

“These cases are like a light on the road to Damascus.” With an image straight out of the New Testament, Richard McCracken presented Antin IP Chair Professor Denis Gromb with the weighty trophy in front of fellow professors, staff members and his students. This self-styled “case method Oscar” symbolizes one of business teaching’s most prestigious awards, created by The Case Centre back in 1991. “Yours is a stand-out case,” pursued the Centre’s Director who had jetted into the HEC campus from the British capital. “That’s for several reasons: it was written for and with your students; the choice of a global brand like Prada gives it universal appeal; and the teaching notes you wrote to accompany it are so strong that institutions on the other side of the world can adapt it to their own context.”

Richard McCracken underlined his Centre’s affinity for HEC’s general approach to case teaching, noting the challenge of winning a case study method resource: “Over 60,000 cases from 31 countries are eligible for our 14 annual awards each year. Since it went on the market, your case, Denis, has been taught in eight different schools in four countries, it’s worked on by hundreds of students – no mean feat.”

A glowing Denis Gromb pointed to the full circle his study has traveled: “Five years ago, I began working on Prada’s IPO at – guess where? –, a two day writing workshop organized by The Case Centre! It was an idea I had been toying with for a while. That’s thanks to a very good contact Alberta and I had who was very involved in the IPO. I’m talking about Laurent Pellerin at the Crédit Agricole, whom I salute. So, it’s great to be honored like this, it’s the icing on the cake.”

Opening Doors to Other Disciplines

Gromb outlined the richness of Prada’s 2011 IPO, its fifth attempt at such an operation. “This case has a lot of doors,” he explained. “Around its financial core, there’s the sociology of luxury in China and the seemingly puzzling decision by an Italian-owned company to go to Hong Kong. There were questions of strategy, marketing and pricing. There’s even politics: China’s crackdown on corruption was partly responsible for Prada losing half its value after the IPO.”

Students at the ceremony responded warmly to their professor’s general approach: “What we really liked was how his classes bring alive financial theory,” said one. “His first-hand fieldwork really adds stature to his teaching, it’s like he’s proven himself in our eyes,” added a second. “We appreciated the concise nature and clarity of the case since we had so little time to present our analysis,” piped a third.

Molding a New Case Study Around Antin IP

In his 23 year teaching career, Denis Gromb has always relied on student feedback to enrich his research. “It’s crucial for us to road-test a case,” he said. “I always work with students from different levels of experience, for around 10 sessions. It allows me to gauge the case’s clarity, to benefit from their know-how and to connect my work with other courses.” His own  long teaching experience in other institutions (MIT, London Business School, Insead) allows him to judge the qualities which distinguish the HEC student population from the others: “Take this IPO: here, there’s the diversity of student generations - from pre-experience to executive board members. There’s the geographical richness of their origins. And there’s also a very strong pull toward the luxury industry at HEC which they know far better than I do. All these elements allowed me to have fantastic feedback for the Prada case.”

Now, the academic is exploring an equally challenging new case: the 2012 purchase of Bouygues Telecom’s cell towers by a fund managed by Antin Infrastructure Partners, a private equity firm investing in infrastructure assets. The case study is part of a broader educational agenda of the Antin IP Chair at HEC that Gromb coordinates: “It’s important the students be more aware of this industry and infrastructure investments in general. This case study is already generating a lot of interest at HEC. Our Master in Finance program has an entire course devoted to private equity and infrastructure  so I’m looking forward to plenty of student and academic feedback. I’ll also bring in the story of Antin IP, which I think is fascinating. For example,  Antin has a startup mentality but how does it organize itself? What relationship has it established with its investors? There are so many doors to open around human resources, macro-economy, political science, privatization… It’s going to be a great case, and, when I’m done writing it, I look forward to it dropping on The Case Centre desk next year.”

It’s easy to understand why Denis Gromb’s energy spreads to HEC classes – and goes global.


Find this case and also many more case studies produced at HEC Paris on the official HEC Paris Case Collection