Le monde du luxe

Maureen Chiquet Is Leaving as C.E.O. of Chanel

By ELIZABETH PATONJAN. 27, 2016
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American-born and a former executive at Gap, Maureen Chiquet has led Chanel since 2007. Credit Timothy A. Clary/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

 

PARIS — Twenty-four hours after Chanel’s Paris couture show was called among the best of the season, the company confirmed that Maureen Chiquet, chief executive of Chanel and one of the few women at the helm of a global luxury business, would leave at the end of this month.

American-born and a former executive at Gap, Ms. Chiquet, 52, has been chief executive at Chanel, the private French company owned by the billionaire Wertheimer family, since 2007. The company said Wednesday that Ms. Chiquet was departing “due to differences of opinion about the strategic direction of the company.”
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A spokesman also said that Chanel’s chairman, Alain Wertheimer, the grandson of the original business partner of the founder, Gabrielle Chanel, would take over the operational management of the company during the search for a new chief executive. Mr. Wertheimer and his brother, Gérard, who rarely take front-row seats at Chanel fashion shows or talk to the news media, have $11.8 billion fortunes and are the sixth- and seventh-richest people in France, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

“During her nine years as global C.E.O., Maureen Chiquet oversaw the successful international expansion of the House of Chanel, enhanced its luxury positioning and timeless image, and grew the business in all categories. She also established a truly global organization and enhanced the culture and leadership of the company,” the company’s statement said.

“Chanel is grateful for what Maureen has done to bring Chanel into a new era of its development, in close collaboration with the leadership team, and wishes her continued success.”

Often considered the ultimate in French luxury, Chanel reported a 38 percent rise in annual profit in 2015, a rare growth story during a year where the luxury industry as a whole suffered.

After several years of the economic slowdown taking its toll on sales growth in mature and emerging markets, Bain & Company has forecast that the global market for personal luxury goods is heading for its weakest year since 2009, with sales this year expected to rise to $280 billion, up as little as 1 percent from 2014 levels.

But Chanel, known for its perfumes, $4,000 quilted handbags and its creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, has been one of the more resilient performers in the industry, claiming double-digit sales growth in every major market.

Chanel does not disclose financial performance figures, although MainFirst estimates 2015 net income of 1.2 billion euros, or about $1.3 billion, on revenue of €6.5 billion. Its estimated 13 percent sales compound annual growth rate is nearly double that of the global luxury goods average over an 18-year period.

The company has led the sector with crucial strategic decisions, such as standardizing prices worldwide last April after gaps grew between regions because of volatile exchange rates, opening museum exhibitions devoted to its craftsmen and smart social media activity, often twinned with extravagant runway shows. In the past, the brand built life-size airport hangars, casinos and supermarkets to showcase the latest collections.

The Cruise 2016 collection is scheduled to be held in Havana in May. All eyes will be trained on the front row, to see if Mr. Wertheimer is there.

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