This article is the part (4) of our series “Know your watch conglomerates” :
Conglomerate no. 4: Kering Group
If you can call EUR 4.75 billion fledgling, then French owned and based conglomerate Kering are indeed fledgling, at least as far as acquiring watch brands goes, but it seems unlikely it will remain that way for long.
Kering, or PPR as it was known up until March of last year, began life in 1963 as a building materials business. It was founded by Francois Pinault, and today it is run by his son, 52 year old Francois-Henri Pinault. The leap into luxury occurred in 1999 when the company acquired Gucci. Since that time some of the hottest names in fashion, haute couture, and most recently, haute horology, have fallen under the spell of the so called Kering Effect.
Billionaire owner of Kering, Francois Henri Pinault, has led a life every bit as glamorous as the brands he represents. He is married to Hollywood actress Salma Hayek and, following a paternity suit, was established as the father of a four year old son, Augustin James, by super model Linda Evangelista.
In addition to Gucci, Kering has in its ever expanding portfolio well-known international brands such as Yves Saint Laurent, Brioni, Puma, Alexander Mc Queen, Stella McCartney, and Balenciaga.
Kering’s watch portfolio is currently small, but includes just the kind of names many a conglomerate would love to drop in knowledgeable horological circles; these include one of the heavy hitters, the long established and much respected Girard-Perregaux and its sister brand JEANRICHARD. And as of the past few days, the venerable Ulysse Nardin has joined the fold in a 100% sell out deal to the French company.
Girard-Perregaux, JEANRICHARD and Ulysse Nardin are not the only top name Swiss brands to have been seduced by the benefits of French ownership in the past few years. Kering’s key rivals LVMH own TAG Heuer, Hublot and Bulgari. It’s highly likely that Kering will be looking for more watch brands to add to their portfolio.
Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but it probably isn’t that both Girard Perregaux and JEANRICHARD, the two brands which comprise the Sowind Group, and now Ulysee Nardin, have both witnessed the demise of their Chief Executive Officers in recent years. Luigi Macaluso, who successfully resuscitated Girard-Perregaux, integrating it into a group and making it a major independent player in the haute horlogerie scene, died unexpectedly on the evening of Tuesday October 26th 2010.
Just nine months later in July 2011, Kering acquired the group and subsequently the two marques. The Macaluso family, who own Sowind, are still involved with the running of both brands: Massimo is currently president of JEANRICHARD, while Stefano became vice-president of Girard-Perregaux a few years ago.
Similarly, Ralf W. Schnyder, who acquired Ulysse Nardin in 1983, and re-established the brand to become one of the top names in the mechanical watchmaking sector, died after a short illness on April 14th 2011. Because a succession plan was already in place, management was able continue to operate the company without interruption, but for both brands, the strength and reach of a major conglomerate behind them must have proved irresistible.
It’s also the case that Kering’s approach to acquisition is to encourage the creativity and agility of their brands by empowering them to lead and innovate. With the resources of the Group behind each brand they can enjoy the best of both worlds, financial firepower as well as creative freedom.
It’s a formula that seems to be working extremely well for Kering. They have just reported second-quarter revenue that exceeded analysts’ estimates. This is thanks to surging demand for Saint Laurent dresses. Their steady growth contrasts with Kering’s key rival LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, whose first-half earnings have trailed their forecast estimates. They put the blame on weakened Asian demand for fashion and leather goods in the second quarter amid political unrest in Hong Kong. It must be music to Kering’s ears. (kering.com)