Richemont Names New Brand CEOs



Richemont is reshuffling its top management team once again in a sign that long-awaited succession planning is underway at the luxury group tightly controlled by South African billionaire Johann Rupert.

The company, on Tuesday, promoted two of its watch brand heads to key roles at jewellery houses Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Vacheron Constantin head Louis Ferla will run Cartier, the Swiss company’s biggest brand, while Catherine Renier, who heads Jaeger-LeCoultre, will assume the top job at Van Cleef.

The shuffle comes not long after Nicolas Bos, who previously ran Van Cleef, was elevated to the role of Richemont Group CEO. All this takes place as demand for pricey products is slowing and the group has faced mounting questions about its future leadership.

Richemont is controlled by Rupert, who owns about 10 percent of the company’s equity but more than 50 percent of its voting rights through a family trust. Rupert, who is 74, has elevated younger leaders to senior management positions in recent weeks and provided greater clarity around the company’s plans. In May, the executive chairman announced that he would give up some day-to-day management duties and named 53-year-old Bos as the Richemont group’s new chief executive. Bos more than doubled sales during his time as head of jewellery house Van Cleef & Arpels.

The appointment of Bos to a position that involves overseeing the heads of the jewellery brands likely hastened the departure of Cyrille Vigneron. Vigneron, 63, ran Cartier for eight years and was once considered a potential group CEO before making way for Ferla, who is in his late 40s.

During his tenure, Vigneron boosted Cartier sales by reducing the number of model lines and focusing on the storied brand’s best-known jewellery collections and famous watch models. That strategy, which cemented Cartier’s position as the top global jewellery house and second-biggest luxury watchmaker, isn’t expected to change under Ferla, who previously spent 11 years at Cartier.

The change marks “a very smooth transition at Richemont, which should reassure investors,” Vontobel analyst Jean-Philippe Bertschy said. The two brands are Richemont’s “sales and profit drivers,” with Cartier accounting for about 10 billion euros ($10.7 billion) in annual sales and Vacheron Constantin about 1 billion euros, Bertschy said.

Richemont shares were little changed in midday Zurich trading Tuesday. They’ve gained about 22 percent in 2024.

Since his 2017 move to run Vacheron — among the most celebrated Swiss watchmakers along with Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet — Ferla has vaulted the company into the top 10 Swiss brands by revenue.

Sales at the brand, best known for its Overseas sports watch collection and its highly finished and complicated dress watches, increased by about 18 percent in 2023, according to estimates by Morgan Stanley.

Under Ferla’s leadership, Vacheron has reduced its dependence on sales to China, increased its presence in the top US market and sold more watches direct to consumers through its own boutiques.

Rénier’s move to the top job at Van Cleef & Arpels to replace Bos confirms the company’s focus on its key jewellery brands. A Richemont executive since 1999, Rénier joined Van Cleef in 2003 and rose in rank to lead the company’s Asia Pacific unit for eight years until 2018 when she joined Jaeger-LeCoultre as CEO.

Philippe Hermann, the watch brand’s chief financial officer, will assume the role of interim CEO for Jaeger-LeCoultre until a new CEO is announced, the company said.

Rupert has said he has no intention of selling the company or any of its prized assets such as Cartier. Bernard Arnault, the head of bigger rival LVMH, covets the Cartier brand and has acquired a small, personal stake in Richemont shares, Bloomberg Businessweek reported last month.

Rupert’s son Anton is on the company’s board of directors but doesn’t hold any executive roles at the company, whose stable of brands also includes watch makers Panerai, Piaget, fashion house Chloé and golf sportswear brand Peter Millar. The company is still trying to sell its money-losing Yoox Net-a-Porter online sales business after a deal to sell a majority stake to Farfetch Ltd. fell apart.

Moving Ferla to lead Cartier, the single biggest contributor to Richemont’s sales and profit, is a “very good succession solution,” analysts at Zurich Cantonal Bank said in a report.

Richemont’s stable of jewellery brands, which also include Buccellati and the recently acquired Vhernier SpA, account for about 70 percent of Richemont’s overall sales, according to UBS analyst estimates.

Richemont will report its first quarter sales and revenue on July 16.

By Andy Hoffman



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