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Benckiser Cutting Labelux Division; Reinhard Mieck to Exit

From July, Joh. A. Benckiser Holdings will directly oversee the Jimmy Choo, Bally, Belstaff and Zagliani brands, WWD has learned.

LONDON — Joh. A. Benckiser Holdings is eliminating its Labelux division, and from July will directly oversee the Jimmy Choo, Bally, Belstaff and Zagliani brands, WWD has learned.

This story first appeared in the July 1, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Reinhard Mieck, chief executive officer of Labelux, is to leave the company.

Benckiser said the proposed changes are a result of Labelux’s success in attracting top management for its brands, and the improving performance of the companies in its portfolio.

Benckiser said it wants to “increase its direct involvement with its luxury businesses,” while the strategy of direct oversight will bring the luxury brands in line with the other companies in the holding firm’s portfolio.

The changes are also aimed at facilitating growth, said Benckiser. There will be no layoffs across the 2,700 workers at Labelux companies or at the Global Business Services organization, the synergy platform that deals with operations such as media buying, real estate and IT for the brands. GBS will continue to be run by its ceo Mark West.

Going forward, the luxury businesses will be overseen by Peter Harf, a senior partner at Benckiser, and Fabio Fusco, who has been named partner at Joh. A. Benckiser Holdings and chief financial officer of Joh. A. Benckiser Luxury.

“The changed structure and JAB’s greater direct involvement is a reflection of its increasing commitment to luxury goods as a key pillar in the JAB Holdings portfolio,” said Harf, chairman of the luxury goods businesses at Joh. A. Benckiser Holdings.

“This is absolutely the right thing for the future of JAB, the luxury goods brands and its employees. At the same time, we would like to record our gratitude to Reinhard, who has been a major factor in both the success of the luxury goods businesses, and the fact that we now have world-class managers leading our luxury goods companies,” he added.

Joh. A. Benckiser Holdings is a privately held investment firm whose assets are overseen directly by its senior partners — Harf, Bart Becht and Olivier Goudet. Its portfolio also includes a majority stake in Coty Inc., and a minority stake in Reckitt Benckiser Group plc, which owns health, hygiene and home products.

It also has majority stakes in the coffee and tea companies D.E. Master Blenders 1753 BV, Peet’s Coffee & Tea Inc. and Caribou Coffee. Earlier this year, Benckiser and Mondelez International Inc. agreed to combine their coffee businesses, creating the world’s leading pure-play coffee company controlled by Benckiser.

Benckiser set up Labelux in 2007. From the get-go, Labelux set out to establish itself as a luxury player, with a sharp appetite for acquisitions and a long-term vision for its brands.

In 2008, it took majority stakes in the London-based jewelry firm Solange Azagury-Partridge and the New York label Derek Lam. It bought Bally outright from TPG Capital, and went on to purchase Zagliani the following year, and Jimmy Choo and Belstaff in 2011.

In 2012, Labelux sold its stakes in Solange Azagury-Partridge and Derek Lam back to the founding designers, saying it preferred to focus on building its luxury leather goods and shoes businesses.

Finding the right managers to run the Labelux companies was often challenging: Mieck temporarily served as ceo of Belstaff and Bally, although he recently filled those posts with Gavin Haig and Frédéric de Narp, respectively. In 2012, he named Pierre Denis ceo of Jimmy Choo.

Labelux acquired Choo in 2011 in a deal valuing it at 549 million pounds, or $889.4 million at the time, according to sources.

The brand has consistently been notching double-digit growth and could seek an initial public offering this year, with a market valuation of 1 billion pounds, or $1.67 billion at current exchange, according to industry sources.