LVMH's brand portfolio is a catalogue of the finest things money can buy. It is the world's premier luxury goods company, controlling more than 70 exclusive brand names including Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Hennessy, Givenchy, Moet & Chandon, TAG Heuer and Guerlain. These have been accumulated over the years by LVMH's chairman, Bernard Arnault, earning him the title of France's richest man, as well as arguably the world's most influential arbiter of good taste. One of Arnault's few failures was the two-year battle to add ultra-chic Gucci to his collection. LVMH eventually admitted defeat in 2000, but instead negotiated a handsome payout for its interest. In 2010, Arnault began a similar assault on domestic rival Hermes, accumulating a 22% stake in the smaller company through the financial markets. Hermes' owners were implacable in their opposition to Arnault's investment in their company, but even after a successful court case have been unable to displace him entirely as a shareholder. There have been several other, mostly smaller acquistitions since then. Among the more notable are Bulgari jewellery in 2011 and Loro Piana luxury cashmere in 2013.
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Adbrands Daily Update 17th Dec 2018: LVMH announced the acquisition of luxury hotel group Belmond for $3.2bn including debt, expanding its presence significantly in the prestige travel sector. LVMH currently owns four Cheval Blanc hotel properties in France, St Barts and the Maldives. Belmond adds 35 luxury reports around the world including the Cipriani in Venice - the company also operates the Venice Simplon-Orient Express train service - as well as the Splendido in Portofino, Reid's in Madeira, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in the UK and 21 Club in New York.
Adbrands Weekly Update 1st Nov 2018: Ads of the Week: "The New Absolu". It's hard to fault the exceptional new film for Dior Parfums' J'Adore Absolu edition, which further burnishes Charlize Theron's credentials as the world's most striking celebrity Amazon. (We're talking warrior princess here, not ecommerce website). It's hard to believe she's been making these campaigns since 2004 but somehow doesn't seem to have aged a day. It must be all that bathing. Of course, it's the job of ads like this to make good-looking women look even better, but director Romain Gavras exceeds his brief in every respect. Settings, photography, star power and music are all superb. We hate fragrance ads. But oh how we love them too!
Adbrands Weekly Update 11th Oct 2018: The good times were not quite as good for the luxury sector in 3Q. A slowdown in organic growth at bellwether LVMH caused a mild panic among investors in that company or peers such as Gucci-owner Kering, Burberry and Hermes. Amid a broader market sell-off, LVMH's shares alone slumped by 9% while Kering's lost 10%. The cause was a slip in LVMH's organic growth during 3Q to 10%, from 11% in 2Q and 13% in the first quarter of the year. Each of LVMH's operating divisions experienced the slowdown. One key factor is a fall in consumer confidence in China, exacerbated by trading tensions with the US.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Aug 2018: Havas Media's US office took a heavy blow with the loss of LVMH's local business to a newly created entity within Dentsu Aegis Network. With annual billings of around $400m on brands including Dior Parfums, Louis Vuitton, Hennessy and Bulgari, it has been one of Havas Media's top three or four local accounts. Havas Media continues to work for the luxury giant in other markets.
Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Aug 2018: There were excellent half-year results from the luxury sector. The brightest star was Kering, the French luxury group best-known for Gucci and Yves St Laurent. Echoing a phenomenal performance in 2017, it reported a leap of just under 34% in sales for the first half of the current year to €6.4bn. That included a jump of 45% in comparable sales from North America and almost 38% in Asia Pacific excluding Japan. Gucci alone reported global organic growth of 40%, and the brand is expected to hit full-year sales of €8bn. Net income for the half almost tripled to €2.4bn, though half of that sum came from the sale of shares in Puma. This marked the group's sixth consecutive quarter of revenue growth above 35%. LVMH also performed well, though not quite as spectacularly as Kering. Organic growth for the half was 13% to €10.85bn, including a 16% increase at the core fashion & leather goods business. Watches & Jewellery and Perfume & Cosmetics did even better with a lift of 20% and 17% respectively. The best results, though, came from the bottom line: profit for the first half soared by 41% to €3bn. Prada too, which has been struggling to regain its balance in the past couple of years, delivered its best results for several quarters. Reported sales were up 3% for the half (or 9% at constant exchange rates) while net profits rose almost 11%.
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Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: Louis Vuitton learned his trade in the first half of the 19th century as an apprentice to Monsieur Marechal, who offered a service designing and packing trunks and luggage for the belle monde of Paris. Having built up a following of his own among Marechal's wealthier customers, in particular with the young Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, Vuitton established his own premises in 1854 to make personalised luggage. He was most celebrated for his popularisation of flat-sided trunks, which could be easily stacked when travelling. With Empress Eugenie's endorsement, the business quickly gained a substantial international following, and Vuitton opened its first branch in London in 1885. The designs were widely copied by other companies, so Vuitton introduced its first trademarked design pattern in 1889, followed a few years later by the LV monogram still used today. Under the control of his son Georges, Vuitton established branches in America around the turn of the century and also moved into other travel goods as well as handbags.
The family-owned business continued to be successful throughout the 20th century, but took a huge leap forward in the late 1970s after it came under the control of Henri Racamier, a successful industrialist who had married into the Vuitton family. He oversaw a rapid international expansion of the company's retail network, as well as the purchase of like-minded businesses such as Givenchy and Veuve Clicquot. Sales rose to almost $2.5bn by 1987. In that year, Racamier engineered a merger of the company with the equally upmarket drinks business Moet Hennessy, which had a similar portfolio of luxury brands.
The Moet et Cie champagne house had been founded in around 1745, and became celebrated in French court circles after it was favoured by Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV. The house maintained its status over the turbulent years of the French Revolution, and was later a supplier to Emperor Napoleon. In 1832, management passed to Pierre-Gabriel Chandon de Briailles, who had married into the Moet family, and it was renamed Moet et Chandon. Its fame spread throughout Europe during the course of the 19th century. Later, during the 1920s, Moet et Chandon introduced what it promised would be the world's finest champagne, priced well above its existing wines, and which it named Dom Perignon after the the Benedictine monk who had first perfected the technique for double-fermenting wine to create champagne.
In the 1960s the house expanded further, acquiring rival champagnes Ruinart and Mercier. This was followed by diversification into fragrances, with the purchase of Parfums Christian Dior in 1970, and of Hennessy cognac in 1971. In 1973 the company established a winery in Napa Valley, California, under the name Domaine Chandon. Later under CEO Alain Chevalier the group also diversified into skincare with the purchase of RoC (now owned by Johnson & Johnson) and even cultivation of fine roses. However these latter businesses generated losses, and to avoid the possibility of a hostile takeover by another company, Moet Hennessy agreed to a merger of equals with fast-expanding but much smaller Louis Vuitton. However the disparity in size between the two businesses - Moet was almost two-thirds bigger than Vuitton - quickly created tensions between Moet Hennessy's Chevalier, appointed as executive chairman of the enlarged group, and Vuitton's Henri Racamier. The latter sought to bolster his position by calling upon the support of Bernard Arnault, a rising figure in the French business world, who had developed a reputation as a shrewd businessman and a tough adversary. This was to prove an unfortunate error on Racamier's part, and a stroke of immense good fortune for Arnault.
Bernard Arnault's business career had begun in the 1970s as an engineer for Ferret-Savinel, a large construction company controlled by his father. Later, he dabbled in the property development market first in France and then the US. In 1984, Arnault took control of holding company Financiere Agache, previously part-owned by his family, and used this as the platform for a series of acquisitions of weak French businesses. One of the first was Boussac, a near-bankrupt textiles group which owned various businesses including the legendary but ailing Christian Dior couture label and retail group Le Bon Marché. Arnault acquired the group and sold off everything but Dior and Bon Marché, but was frustrated to find that he could not reclaim the Parfums Dior license, which had been sold to Moet Hennessy several years earlier. In 1987, at Henri Racamier's prompting, Arnault purchased a stake in LVMH and lent his support to a campaign to oust Alain Chevalier as chairman. Almost immediately afterwards, he turned against Racamier, enlisting other shareholders to support his own campaign to force out his former partner. After an 18-month legal battle, he was successful and appointed himself as chief executive, while also transferring several of his own existing businesses into LVMH in return for a substantial shareholding. This effectively gave him complete control of the group.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Arnault made a series of additional significant purchases. The Givenchy fashion house joined the group in 1988, and Arnault shocked the fashion world by unceremoniously sacking elderly founder Hubert de Givenchy, replacing him with British enfant terrible John Galliano, who quickly set about reinventing the famed label. To build its haute couture profile, Arnault transferred his Christian Lacroix and Kenzo fashion labels into LVMH in 1993. Further acquisitions included jewellers Fred in 1995, designer Celine and Loewe leather goods in 1996. Having worked his magic at Givenchy, John Galliano was moved across into Dior, and replaced at Givenchy by another iconoclastic British star, Alexander McQueen. Having established a thriving portfolio of fashion brands, Arnault moved on to enhance his retail and distribution interests, acquiring Asian-Pacific DFS duty-free shops in 1996 and Sephora perfumeries a year later.
That year, however, the group's drinks business was threatened when UK giants Guinness and Grand Metropolitan announced they were merging to form Diageo. Moet Hennessy and Guinness already owned significant stakes in each other, and the French company was also involved in a series of joint venture distribution deals with Grand Met. Arnault was not only insulted that he had not been consulted over that the merger, but also nervous that he might be shut out of his distribution partnerships and unhappy about being associated with Grand Met's Burger King chain. Initially he threatened to block the merger altogether, proposing instead that the Guinness and Grand Met drinks businesses should be spun off and merged with his own Moet Hennessy division. Diageo refused, but was eventually persuaded to pay off Arnault with around £270m in compensation, as well as a seat on the Diageo board and rights to distribute the full portfolio of Diageo drinks through a new distribution joint venture. LVMH also kept its shareholding in the enlarged drinks giant, worth just under £3bn, and Diageo inherited Guinness's 34% stake in Moet Hennessy.
With this triumph under his belt, Arnault began looking for other targets. At the tail end of 1998, he resigned his directorship of Diageo, and gradually began disposing of his shares to build up an acquisition war chest. His target was revealed at the end of the year, when the company announced it had secretly bought a 5% holding in famed fashion brand Gucci. Shortly afterwards, LVMH acquired further shares from fashion house Prada as well as through the markets to build up a 34% holding in Gucci by early 1999. But what began as a seemingly friendly alliance between the two companies quickly turned sour, leading to a bitter takeover battle. Uncharacteristically, this was a battle which Arnault eventually lost. [See Gucci profile for details of the subsequent battle for control]. LVMH finally sold its shares in Gucci at the end of 2001, consoling itself with a profit of €860m.
Never a man to do just one deal when he could be doing ten, Arnault took some time out during the Gucci battle to ink a number of other mostly internet-related deals, later consolidated into private incubator fund Europ@web. By 2000, Europ@web had built up stakes in more than 50 leading online businesses. Plans to launch an IPO of the group were later cancelled, but instead Arnault successfully sold a big shareholding in Europ@web to media and utility giant Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux for around $255m in 2000, shortly before the internet bubble burst. Most of Europ@web's investments did not survive the downturn, with fashion e-tailer Boo.com its most notorious failure. One notable success was the French ISP LibertySurf, later sold to Tiscali for a huge profit. Another unsuccessful diversion was an attempt to break the stranglehold of Sothebys and Christies on the international auction market. LVMH acquired the leading British auctioneers Phillips and Bonhams & Brooks, as well as Etude Tajan of France and famed Geneva art dealership De Pury & Luxembourg, merging them to create a new international auction house, Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg. However the economic downturn of 2001 hampered the company's development, and LVMH sold its majority stake to management in 2002.
Meanwhile, LVMH continued to add a string of prestigious fashion labels to its portfolio, including UK shirtmaker Thomas Pink and Italian fashion house Fendi. The purchase of Swiss sports watchmaker TAG Heuer ( for $751m) was the first of a series of acquisitions of luxury watch and jewellery makers. Other brands bought in late 1999 and early 2000 included Ebel, Chaument and Zenith. High profile US designer Donna Karan joined the portfolio in 2001. Also that year the group announced a joint venture with De Beers to market jewellery and other luxury products under the De Beers brands, and bought out Prada's stake in Fendi, to gain majority control of the Italian design house. Although economic slowdown, exacerbated by the shockwaves from the 9/11 New York terrorist attacks, hit all of LVMH's operations later in the year, performance steadily improved in 2002 and 2003. The group streamlined its portfolio during the period, selling off several under-performing businesses. Arnault has also kept much tighter control on acquisitions, adding only a few key businesses, compared to the numerous purchases of previous years.
In 2006, LVMH issued a lawsuit against the French subsidiary of auction giant eBay for acting as an intermediary in the sale of counterfeit Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton products. In 2008, a judge found in favour of the luxury group, and ordered eBay to pay a fine of almost €40m in compensation. It also instructed eBay to block sales of certain genuine products, because their sale via the auction site breached selective distribution agreements made by LVMH. A further €1.7m fine was made against eBay in November 2009, for failing to comply with the previous ruling. See full profile for current activities
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