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Richemont is the world's #2 luxury goods company (behind LVMH), with a strong emphasis on jewellery, watches and other fine objects. Among the many well-known brands sitting within the portfolio are Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Montblanc. Although many of its brands date back to the 19th century or even before, Richemont itself is a comparatively recent creation. Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2013, it forms one part of the extensive investment empire of South Africa's Rupert family, whose other interests include mining, financial services, packaged goods and engineering. The group started as a maker of tobacco products, but sold its Rothmans International division to British American Tobacco in 1999, in return for a very profitable stake in the enlarged business. It finally divested these shares in 2008.

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Cartier A Lange & Sohne
Van Cleef & Arpels Vacheron Constantin
Montblanc Jaeger LeCoultre
Alfred Dunhill Panerai
Purdey Baume & Mercier
Piaget IWC
Chloe Lancel
Montegrappa Yoox Net A Porter

Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 25th Jan 2018: Luxury group Richemont jumped back into online retail again with an offer to buy the outstanding shares in publicly quoted Yoox Net-a-Porter for up to €2.69bn. The Swiss group is offering €38 a share, just over a quarter above YNAP's undisturbed share price. Richemont merged Net-a-Porter, which it then controlled, into Yoox in 2015 in return for a 25% stake in the merged company. The business has prospered in the intervening two years, with revenues up 12% last year to €2.1bn. YNAP claims an audience of 3.1m active users. However, competition is growing, not just from Amazon, but from fast expanding luxury specialists Farfetch - where Net-a-Porter's former founder Natalie Massenet is now co-chairman - and

Adbrands Weekly Update 10th Nov 2016: Luxury group Richemont - owner of Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Montblanc - is to dispense with a CEO following the planned retirement of current incumbent Richard Lepeu. Controlling shareholder Johann Rupert will remain executive chairman, but the CEO's duties will be shared out among what are currently divisional heads. "It’s not possible for one individual to be CEO," said Rupert. "This was highlighted to me by poor Mr Lepeu, who ended up with 35 direct reports. We need to look at spreading that load and having a structure that allows managers more time to really address their responsibilities. My role will be the same as before. I am an air traffic controller of egos — and nothing’s changed." Georges Kern, currently chief executive of the group's IWC watch brand becomes head of watchmaking, marketing & digital; while Montblanc leader Jerome Lambert was named head of operations.

Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Sept 2015: Natalie Massenet, founder and CEO of luxury mail order firm Net-a-Porter, has resigned ahead of its effective takeover by no frills rival Yoox. Net-a-Porter has been controlled since 2010 by Cartier owner Richemont, but continued to lose money. Earlier this year, apparently against Massenet's wishes, Richemont agreed to sell the business to Yoox, whose own chief Federico Marchetti is to be CEO of the combined business. Massenet, who personally earned £140m from the sale, was to have become executive chairman.

Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd April 2015: Scotching earlier rumours of an approach from Amazon, luxury group Richemont signed off this week on a deal to merger its ecommerce business Net-a-Porter with Italy-based rival Yoox. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but Richemont will retain a 50% economic shareholding in the merged Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, but only 25% of voting rights. The business will also inherit Yoox' public listing on the Italian Stock Exchange. Net-a-Porter's Natalie Massenet becomes executive chairman while Yoox founder Federico Marchetti is CEO. Combined revenues will be around €1.3bn.

Adbrands Weekly Update 12th Feb 2015: Ads Of The Week: "The Proposal". For Cartier, here's a lovely film from director Sean Ellis, set in a version of Paris where literally everyone has models' good looks. No chubbies, uglies or even casual dressers here, even among the extras. (Also, only the lightest possible sprinkling of non-Caucasians or same-sex lovers...) However, the three intertwined stories are completely charming, and are likely to get even the most skinflint bloke thinking about a special gift for the one he loves.

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Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: In the late 1840s, Louis-Francois Cartier purchased the small jeweller's shop in Paris where he worked, following the retirement of his employer. His designs, many featuring animal motifs such as panthers, quickly found favour with members of Parisian high society, and the shop moved location several times as its status rose. In the 1860s, his son Alfred took over the business, and later passed it on to his own sons Pierre, Jacques and Louis.

The three brothers brought the business to worldwide prominence in the late 19th and early 20th century, largely as a result of the patronage of Queen Victoria's son, the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. A renowned playboy, he had been a regular customer of the Paris shop since the 1880s, relying on the Cartier brothers to supply gifts for his numerous female friends. For his coronation in 1902, he commissioned the shop to make 27 diamond tiaras to be presented as gifts to a select group of followers, an act of generosity which firmly established Cartier as the choice of the nobility and the upper classes. Later he granted Cartier a Royal Warrant, and this encouraged similar commissions from other royalty. By 1910, Cartier counted no less than 20 royal houses of Europe among its clients. To build on this popularity Jacques Cartier opened a shop in London in 1902, and Pierre Cartier launched a New York outlet in 1909, where he courted America's new breed of millionaires and tycoons. Among Cartier's many innovations were the first women's wristwatches as well as what is generally considered to be the first modern man's watch with a leather strap, the Santos watch introduced in 1908. Later, however, during the worldwide economic depression of the 1930s and the world war which followed, the business declined, and control of the three separate Cartier maisons in Paris, London and New York passed to different shareholders.

In the early 1970s, Cartier of Paris was reinvigorated by French businessman Robert Hocq. A former hero of the French resistance during World War II, he had developed the world's first gas-powered cigarette lighter in the 1960s. Feeling that only a prestigious brandname would do for this new invention, he applied for a license to market the product under the Cartier name. Encouraged by the lighter's enormous success, Hocq assembled a team of investors - who included a wealthy South African by the name of Anton Rupert - and they acquired the three shops in Paris, London and New York from their different owners between 1972 and 1979 and reunited them under the name Cartier Monde. To broaden the appeal of the business, Hocq also established Les Must de Cartier as a diffusion range of leather goods, fragrances and other accessories. Following Hocq's untimely death in a car accident in 1979, control of the business passed to his deputy Alain Perrin, who secured additional funding from the Cartier investors, including the Rupert family, to acquire other businesses such as Piaget and Baume & Mercier. In 1993, the Rupert family merged Cartier and various other companies in which it had invested under the umbrella of Vendome Luxury Group, in which its Richemont investment company became the controlling shareholder.

Richemont's founder Anton Rupert got his start in in 1941 when he and two friends took control of a small factory in their native South Africa and began manufacturing pipe tobacco. A restless entrepreneur, Rupert set up another venture two years later, to trade and invest in commodities such as tobacco, coal, wool, tea and coffee. He ploughed the profits back into tobacco, buying up rolling machinery, and established the Rembrandt Tobacco Company in 1948. Keen to trade on the appeal of prestige brands, he formed a licensing partnership with the world-famous London tobacconist Rothmans, to market his cigarettes in South Africa under their name. This relationship proved highly profitable, delivering Rembrandt a dominant position in the country's small but highly lucrative tobacco market.

Using his power in South Africa as leverage, Rupert was able to negotiate a series of extensions of the Rothmans license to cover other countries. During the 1950s Rembrandt expanded rapidly, establishing operations in more than 25 countries around the world. In 1952, it introduced the first king-sized filter cigarette, and two years later acquired a controlling interest in the main Rothmans group. Rembrandt went public in South Africa in 1956. Rupert continued to extend his empire, acquiring interests in a wide variety of other industries from mining and engineering to banking and insurance. He quickly became a giant of South Africa's expanding economy, and unusual as one of the few Afrikaaners in an environment largely dominated by British companies. In 1958, Rothmans acquired control of Spanish tobacco company Carreras, maker of Craven A cigarettes. That company in turn acquired a controlling stake in Alfred Dunhill in 1967.

Although Dunhill was best-known for its Dunhill International tobacco brand, the business had originally started as a supplier of riding harnesses and other leather goods, and still controlled a small but well-established chain of luxury goods suppliers around the world. Alfred Dunhill had inherited the family leather goods business in 1893, and modernised it, gradually abandoning its horse-powered heritage in favour of the new motor age. Dunhill's Motorities, as the shop in London's Euston Road was renamed, supplied leather coats, helmets and goggles for fashionable young motorists. An inveterate inventor, Dunhill himself tinkered with a vast collection of new ideas, once of which was the "windshield pipe", which allowed smokers to enjoy their habit while driving in an open-topped motor. This led to the establishment in 1906 of a dedicated tobacconist and pipe shop in Duke Street, close to the London clubs. Dunhill's pipe designs and tobacco blends gradually eclipsed the fame of the leather goods business, especially after the First World War. By 1924, the shop was selling more than 260,000 pipes a year, and outlets had opened in both New York and Paris. Following its acquisition in 1967 by Rothmans the company moved further afield, establishing outlets in Asia. Shares of Anton Rupert's now global tobacco business were finally floated in 1972 in London as Rothmans International, and some of the funds generated by that offering were invested by Rupert in the newly reunited Cartier jewellery business.

During the 1980s, the South African government came under intense pressure from the global community to abandon its policy of racial segregation. Other nations gradually began to impose strict sanctions on trade with the country, and many South African organisations took the opportunity to spin out their international subsidiaries to avoid boycott. The Rupert family, which had already publicly supported an end to apartheid, was no exception. Anton Rupert's son Johann had joined the family firm earlier that decade, having already established a successful independent career as a merchant banker. In 1988 he oversaw the creation of a separate group in Switzerland under the name of Richemont to house Rembrandt's large collection of international interests, including its partial shareholdings in Rothmans International, Alfred Dunhill and Cartier.

Following the end of South Africa's apartheid regime, Johann Rupert executed a clever strategy to consolidate the family portfolio. In 1991 he restructured the group's international interests once again, acquiring full control of Rothmans International and taking it private, through holding company R&R Investments, a joint venture whose ownership was itself split between Rembrandt in South Africa and Richemont in Switzerland. In 1993, the group's complicated labyrinth of interlinked investments was further simplified with the effective merger of Cartier and Dunhill and their various subsidiaries to form Vendome Luxury Group, under Richemont's control.

Also during the 1990s, Richemont began dabbling in other areas including pay-TV in France under the NetHold brand. Later that business was sold to Canal+, and Richemont ended up with a shareholding in what subsequently became French media giant Vivendi. The cash generated by the NetHold deal was used to buy out the remaining minority shareholders in Dunhill and Cartier in 1998, and Vendome Luxury Group was absorbed back into Richemont. Soon afterwards, Richemont cashed in its shares in Vivendi for a large profit, narrowly avoiding that group's subsequent near-collapse. Meanwhile, along with other tobacco companies, Rothmans was beginning to suffer from the global domination of the industry by Philip Morris. In 1999, Rupert strengthened its hand considerably by merging the Rothmans business into British American Tobacco, becoming the biggest shareholder in the merged group.

At the same time, Richemont steadily expanded its collection of luxury goods brands with a string of acquisitions including Vacheron-Constantin (in 1996), Panerai and Lancel (1997), Van Cleef & Arpels (controlling stake in 1999, with the remaining shares bought in 2003), Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC and A Lange & Sohne (2000). However the economic downturn which hit Asia in the 1990s and later spread to the US and Western Europe hit the company hard. The fall in sales only served to highlight serious problems with Richemont's own internal structure. Johann Rupert took a significant risk by taking over the role of CEO himself and initiated a wide-ranging cost-cutting program, while also encouraging new launches within the largely stagnant Cartier business.

In 2003, Bernard Fornas, a former marketing director of Cartier, who had also successfully reinvigorated the smaller Baume & Mercier business, was appointed as CEO. He quickly appointed a new artistic director, Giampiero Bodino, launched a widespread shake-up of the company's production process, and pledged to speed up the introduction of new products, especially at lower price-points. See full profile for current activities

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