Could Delphine and Antoine both succeed their father, Bernard Arnault under a new organization of LVMH?

Earlier this month, Bernard Arnault, France’s richest man, owner and CEO of world’s largest luxury group LVMH, appointed his daughter Delphine as Executive Vice President of Louis Vuitton, the largest and most profitable company of the group. He could not have chosen a more sensitive time to test his daughter’s abilities, given Louis Vuitton’s slower growth reported in the past year which led to a cessation of its retail expansion and re-positioning of the brand by producing pricier products with a more understated design.

One of Delphine Arnault’s first big moves at Vuitton was to appoint a new Accessories Designer, as early as last week –  Darren Spaziani, formerly at Proenza Schouler but also with four years of experience at Vuitton. The move comes as a surprise given that the latest Vuitton Fall 2013 handbags collection has been very well received, international media reporting that some flagship stores have run out of stock. On the other hand, her move demonstrates her determination for change at Vuitton, especially considering that Marc Jacobs’ contract expires at the end of this month.

Beyond Vuitton, she seems to have been appointed to run LVMH new business – also last week, British shoemaker Nicholas Kirkwood expressing his gratitude to Delphine as to the way she handled the acquisition of his company as well as her vision for the future of his company. Sources close to CPP-LUXURY.COM indicate she was actively involved in the 2,5 billion euro acquisition of Loro Piana, in July this year. Before her present role, she would act as Vice President of Dior, working closely with CEO Sydney Toledano.

In 2011, Bernard Arnault decided to revive luxury French me’s shoemaker Berluti, a dormant company within LVMH and his son Antoine rose to the challenge of his father to develop the brand into a 360 degree men’s luxury power-house brand. In two years, he set up the entire manufacturing infrastructure, controlled in-house, for all product categories, including brand new facilities in Italy and rolled out a series of flagship stores, including the most recent and most notable, in London’s iconic Mayfair on Conduit Street. He developed lavish advertising campaigns and fashion shows under the form of showroom presentations and installation.

Compared to other smaller houses within the group such as Givenchy, Emilio Pucci or Kenzo – Berluti must be, by far, the most dynamic and most coherent in terms of vision and long term strategy. It remains to be seen how he will be able to consolidate a DNA of a brand with basically no heritage, other than shoe-making.

However, LVMH is not only fashion and accessories – it is selective distribution such as Sephora, fine wines & spirits – Krug, Moet Chandon etc and more recently hospitality – LVMH developing the Cheval Blanc internationally, under third party management strategy. These huge parts of the group will have to continue to be run by specialists and replacing Bernard Arnault with Delphine and/or Arnault seems very unlikely. The group will clearly undergo a complex organization, however, Bernard Arnault, 63, shows no signs of tiredness or wish to withdraw from his executive role.

Oliver Petcu

Delphine and Antoine Arnault