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FB Roundup: Swarovski, LVMH, Ferragamo

Fifth-generation Robert Buchbauer heads a streamlined Swarovski, youngest LVMH scion Frederic Arnault to lead Tag Heuer to recovery, next gen James Ferragamo steps aside for trusted adviser as Ferragamo faces the post-Covid-19 future.

Fifth-generation Robert Buchbauer heads a streamlined Swarovski

Robert Buchbauer, the great-great grandson of founder Daniel Swarovski, is the new chief executive of the Austrian jewellery family business amid a management overhaul at the top.

Buchbauer kept his title as chairman of the company’s executive board, the panel of eight fifth-generation family members which runs the 125-year-old manufacturer of fine crystal jewellery, and has been a member since 2002.

He intended to “realign the company along a common vision, growth strategy and organisation,” Swarovski said.

Nadja Swarovski (pictured), 50, great-great granddaughter of the founder and executive board member since 2011, will remain on the executive board, as will Mathias Margreiter who has sat since 2002. Markus Langes-Swarovski departed the executive board after 18 years to concentrate on being a member of the advisory board and chairman of the board of directors.

Based in Mannedorf, Switzerland, Buchbauer headed the Swarovski consumer goods division. He studied business and management at Leopold-Franzens University in Innsbruck, and at the University of California, Berkeley.

He told Vogue in 2013 he originally had no plans to join the family business.

“I bumped into one of my uncles and he said: ‘Why don’t you work for us?’ I went for the interview and went into the marketing team and never left since.

“Once you start you get addicted there’s no way out, it’s like prison… but a beautiful prison,” he said with a laugh.

In his outlook to 2020 last December, Buchbauer spoke of enhancing the online presence of Swarovski and “fostering long-lasting relationships with new and loyal customers.”

Streamlining at Swarovski also led to the appointment of Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert as its first ever company-wide creative director. Engelbert will oversee the creative direction of the company and “reimagine the product portfolio across all divisions,” the family business said. Her first collection will be showcased in spring/summer 2021.

Headquartered in Wattens, Austria, the €3.5 billion ($3.9 billion) Swarovski Group comprises Swarovski Optik, which produces optical instruments such as telescopes and binoculars; Tyrolit, a producer of grinding, sawing, drilling, and dressing tools, as well as a provider of tools and machines; and the Swarovski Crystal Business, which designs, manufactures and sells crystal, gemstones, created stones and finished products.

Youngest LVMH scion Frederic Arnault to lead Tag Heuer to recovery

Frederic Arnault, youngest son of LVMH founder Bernard Arnault, has been promoted to the highest position of Tag Heuer within the French luxury goods giant at the age of 25.

Frederic Arnault is youngest of the four heirs of the 71-year-old chairman and chief executive who work in the family business. The digital native will serve as chief executive of the 160-year-old Swiss watch brand from 1 July, the group announced this week. Stephane Bianchi, the incumbent chief executive, will head LVMH’s new watch and jewellery unit, supervising jewellery brands Chaumet and Fred, as well as the watch portfolio of TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith. Bulgari and the newly acquired Tiffany and Co will continue to operate outside of the unit.

Frederic Arnault graduated with a degree in computational and applied mathematics from Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, his father’s alma mater, and interned at McKinsey and Facebook. He joined TAG Heuer in 2017 as head of its smartwatch efforts then was promoted to the brand’s strategy and digital director from September 2018. He was integral in the development of three generations of Connected smartwatches.

Young Arnault and his team will be confronted by growing smartwatch competition from Apple, generational consumer changes in attitudes to luxury and a Swiss watch industry devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. With flatlined production, distribution and sales, Swiss watch exports in April collapsed by 81.3%, to CHF 328.8 million ($341 million), according to the Swiss Watch Federation.

“His position as head of the company will see him play a role in supporting innovation and accelerating the development of Tag Heuer, as he has done with the launch of the latest Connected watch after piloting the entire design phase,” LVMH said.

Bernard Arnault (pictured) said his son’s appointment “comes as an affirmation of his achievements at TAG Heuer, where he succeeded in combining innovation, heritage and savoir-faire within this historic brand.”

The patriarch routinely nurtures his children’s business experience by finding them senior positions within the €53.7 billion ($60 billion) LVMH empire at young ages. Eldest Delphine Arnault, 45, director and executive vice president of Louis Vuitton, has been a member of the LVMH board since 2003, the first woman and youngest person around the table. Brother Antoine Arnault, 42, started his career in advertising at Louis Vuitton. In 2005, he was nominated to the board and became director of communications in 2007. Brother Alexandre Arnault, 28, was made chief executive and president of upmarket luggage brand Rimowa since it was acquired by LVMH in 2017. Perhaps these baptisms of fire will help the founder choose his successor.

Next gen James Ferragamo steps aside for trusted adviser as Ferragamo faces the post-Covid-19 future

James Ferragamo, grandson of celebrity shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo, has made way for the return of former chief executive Michele Norsa to the board as the family focuses on the big picture for their Italian luxury goods company.

Giacomo (James) Ferragamo (pictured), 48, is the twin son of Ferruccio Ferragamo, 71, chairman of Salvatore Ferragamo, and grandson of the late Salvatore Ferragamo who founded the Florentine brand in 1927. James Ferragamo resigned as a board member at a meeting chaired by his father on 27 May to free up the seat. He will continue as brand and product and communication director, described by the group as “an increasingly key area at a time of profound changes caused by the ongoing pandemic emergency.” He was confirmed as manager with strategic responsibilities in the context of the stock exchange regulations applicable to the company.

Michele Norsa (pictured), also 71, was co-opted onto the board as director and executive deputy chairman of the company with regulatory approvals and assumed the executive powers previously exercised by Ferruccio Ferragamo, who continues as chairman.

The group said Norsa was a manager with outstanding experience and knowledge of the luxury sector. He was the family’s chief executive from 2006 until his amicable departure in 2016 to spend more time with his own family and pursue different professional interests. His new role involved co-operation with Micaela le Divelec Lemmi, 51, the present chief executive, in implementing the company's strategic plans.

“When it comes to these big multigenerational families, I try and re-establish the equality of different families and the first thing I do is give off the impression of being absolutely above any kind of politics and being completely independent, even from the principal,” Norsa told CampdenFB last year.

The Ferragamo family has decided to focus on strategic guidance and planning of the group with all executive roles covered by professional managers, the group said.

With 4,000 employees and 652 stores, the Ferragamo Group makes and sells shoes, leather goods, apparel, fragrances, eyewear and watches worldwide. Group sales were €1.38 billion ($1.53 billion) in 2019. However, the group suffered a €41 million ($46.5 million) loss in the first quarter of 2020 against a €11 million profit in the same period of 2019 due to the impacts of the coronavirus crisis. Share prices continued to climb since the announcement of Norsa’s return.

Up to three family members from the third generation were allowed to work in the family business, as James Ferragamo told CampdenFB earlier.

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