Luanda, Angola–An Angolan state-owned diamond company is pulling its investment in a Swiss jewelry company with ties to the country’s former first family.
Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Sodiam, a subsidiary of Endiama, the country’s national mining company, announced it would divest its stake in Geneva-based De Grisogono after a board meeting Dec. 1, saying it was doing so for “reasons of public interest and legality.” It did not give details on how the transaction would be completed.
De Grisogono reportedly is controlled by Sindika Dokolo, the husband of Isabel Dos Santos, the daughter of former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and the richest woman in Africa, according to Forbes.
The move from Sodiam comes as newly elected Angolan President Joao Lourenco aims to distance the country from the business interests of his predecessor’s family. He has removed Isabel as head of Sonangol, Angola’s state oil company, and announced plans to auction a new telecoms license to compete with Unitel SA, which she controls.
Though De Grisogono doesn’t normally comment on its ownership structure, Marketing Director Gianluca Maina sent the following statement to National Jeweler via email following Sodiam’s announcement.
“Following a recent change in their leadership, Sodiam, a minority shareholder, has announced its intention to exit as an investor in De Grisogono,” he told National Jeweler via email. “This decision won’t have any impact on our majority shareholders who have reconfirmed their continued commitment to our brand and its future and we continue to have strong financial support.”
He added that over the last four years, De Grisogono has increased marketing investment in the brand, added diamond products, moved to a new headquarters and opened new boutiques to expand its international footprint. “As a result De Grisogono today is stronger than ever–with more visibility, better boutiques and incredible stock–and we are starting to reap the benefits of this investment.”
De Grisogono’s connection to Angola’s former first family led gem explorer Yianni Melas to go on a hunger strike recently in Geneva, where he was boycotting not only the brand but also Christie’s auction of the “The Art of De Grisogono, Creation I,” a necklace featuring a 163.41-carat flawless, D color diamond at center that was mined in Angola.
Melas has been calling for a boycott of the brand since this spring, using his his Instagram account to help raise awareness.
When the necklace sold for $33 million (including buyer’s premium), the brand announced its partner, Nemesis International, would donate 1 percent of the of the hammer price to the foundation Fundação Brilhante, an organization championing social change in the areas surrounding mines in Angola.
The low amount of the donation spurred Melas to continue his hunger strike in Athens, eventually extending it to a total of 30 days to represent the total the necklace sold for (minus buyer’s premium), he told National Jeweler. He has two days remaining.