By  on March 7, 2006

PARIS — Tapping its deep management reserves at Louis Vuitton in aid of one of its smaller brands, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton will soon name Serge Brunschwig as the new chief executive officer of Celine, WWD has learned.

According to market sources, Brunschwig, currently Vuitton's managing director, will succeed Jean-Marc Loubier, who spearheaded an expansion drive at Celine over the past five years despite turbulence in the design department.

Loubier, who has had a long career at LVMH, is expected to take up a new post within the luxury group, but the exact position could not immediately be learned.

Brunschwig, tapped from Sephora Europe in 2002 to beef up Vuitton's management ranks, has recently assumed a more visible role in that company, sharing the media spotlight with Vuitton chairman and ceo Yves Carcelle at recent store openings and press conferences.

At Vuitton, Brunschwig is responsible for its network of some 345 boutiques, and for logistics. He headed Vuitton's business in Southeast Asia from 1995 to 1999, ultimately rising to president of LVMH Fashion Group for the Asia Pacific region.

Sources describe him as a bright and driven manager, with a friendly demeanor that masks a tough-as-nails approach to business.

At Celine, he will be charged with energizing a 61-year-old brand that has recently endured a revolving door of designers and, consequently, a diminishing buzz factor.

Following the 2004 departure of Michael Kors after a successful seven-year stint, Celine appointed Roberto Menichetti as its new creative director. His two collections for the brand received lackluster reviews and his desire to devote more energy to his signature collection, based in Gubbio, Italy, prompted another change. Ivana Omazic, a seven-year veteran of Prada and Miu Miu, has shown two collections for the house.

LVMH does not give volume breakdown for individual brands, but market sources estimate Celine's volume at around $200 million. It operates a network of some 110 stores, including recent additions in Florence, Italy, and Tokyo's Ginza district.

Brunschwig's expected appointment at Celine confirms LVMH's plans to devote new energy to turning its underperforming brands into stars. Last week, in disclosing a 21 percent spike in 2005 profits, chairman Bernard Arnault said that would be a strategic focus in the coming year.Philippe Schaus, Vuitton's European president, is expected to succeed Brunschwig as its managing director, sources said.

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