Arnault Said to Have Bought Stake in Richemont



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Bernard Arnault has taken a personal equity stake in Cartier parent company Richemont, according to people familiar with the French billionaire’s investments.

It’s unclear exactly how much of a shareholding the LVMH chairman and chief executive officer has acquired in Cie Financiere Richemont SA. It was described by one of the people as “small” and part of a broader Arnault family-owned portfolio of investments in publicly listed companies.

Arnault currently intends to hold the stock only as an investment, said the person, asking not to be named talking about confidential matters.

News of Arnault’s shareholding in Richemont, which is controlled by South African billionaire Johann Rupert, was revealed as part of a wider profile of the businessman, published in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Richemont shares rose as much as 3.1 percent in Zurich, though they’ve slipped 2.4 percent over the past 12 months. LVMH traded 0.7 percent higher in Paris.

A representative for Arnault and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE declined to comment.

LVMH, the leading purveyor of high-end goods globally, is Europe’s third-most-valuable company, with a market capitalisation of about €366 billion ($391 billion). Richemont’s market value stands at 84.7 billion Swiss francs ($91.3 billion).

Arnault’s shareholding in Richemont may still trigger questions around his intentions for the investment. Richemont has a strong defense against unwanted suitors because its chairman, Rupert, controls 51 percent of the voting rights despite owning only 10.2 percent of the capital. Over the past few years, Rupert, who is 74, has emphasised his desire to keep the group independent.

As of March 31, there were no other significant shareholders in Richemont holding at least 3 percent of the voting rights, the Switzerland-based company said in its latest annual report.

Arnault, 75, described Richemont’s Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels as “two great brands” at LVMH’s annual results presentation in January. He also praised Rupert’s management of the company.

“Let me finish on Richemont and Monsieur Rupert who I consider to be an exceptional leader,” Arnault said then. “I have no desire to disturb his strategy, I understand he wishes to remain independent and I think that’s very good. And if he needs support to maintain his independence, I will be there.”

Fourteen years ago LVMH invested in French luxury house Hermes International SCA. Arnault’s company used equity derivatives to stealthily accumulate a stake that ultimately reached 23 percent, shocking the family behind Hermes. At the time, Arnault called the move “friendly.” The target fought back and repelled LVMH, which relinquished its holding in the Birkin bag maker.

LVMH owns businesses including Loewe, Celine and Fendi in fashion, as well as cosmetics retailer Sephora and the Dom Perignon and Moët & Chandon Champagne brands. Its last major acquisition was the $16 billion purchase of Tiffany & Co more than three years ago, which is still the biggest deal in the luxury industry to date.

LVMH also owns the Bulgari, Fred, Chaumet and Repossi jewellery brands, so if Arnault ever had designs on a takeover of Richemont, a union could potentially attract antitrust scrutiny. LVMH’s fashion brands Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior Couture have jewellery lines, too.

As of June 24, Arnault’s wealth was estimated at about $203 billion, placing him third behind Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

By Angelina Rascouet

Learn more:

With Succession in Focus, LVMH Adds Alexandre and Frédéric Arnault to Board

At its annual meeting Thursday, LVMH shareholders approved the luxury conglomerate’s proposal to add two more of chairman Bernard Arnault’s children to its board of directors.

Disclosure: LVMH is part of a group of investors who, together, hold a minority interest in The Business of Fashion. All investors have signed shareholders’ documentation guaranteeing BoF’s complete editorial independence.



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