PARIS — Unexpected windfall, or meticulously planned attempt at a creeping takeover?LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton said it will “vigorously” defend itself against the latter characterization of how it came to be the second largest shareholder in Hermès International.The luxury group issued a statement to that effect Saturday in response to a front-page article in Le Monde which detailed findings of a French market authority, AMF, probe ahead of a May 31 meeting of the AMF’s sanctions committee.Revealing leaked details of a 115-page report compiled by the AMF, the French newspaper reported that LVMH began building its stake in Hermès as far back as 2001 via subsidiaries in various tax havens, employing the code name “Mercure” for its investment operation.The company resumed its quiet accumulations — in amounts below mandatory disclosure thresholds for public companies — in 2007 via equity derivatives through financial intermediaries, Le Monde said.Its article ran under the headline “LVMH’s very secret plan.”The findings appear to fly in the face of claims by LVMH that it came almost by accident to hold a hefty stake in the famous maker of Birkin bags and silk scarves.Speaking at LVMH’s annual general meeting here last month, chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault reiterated that his intentions toward Hermès were peaceful and he did not plan to increase his stake in the family-controlled firm.“You know, we found ourselves owning shares in this company…unexpectedly. We had not planned to be shareholders in this firm. We made a financial investment, and that financial investment had an outcome that we had not expected,” Arnault said at the time.LVMH surprised markets by revealing in October 2010 that it had amassed a 17.1 percent stake in Hermès via cash-settled equity swaps that allowed it to circumvent the usual regulations requiring firms to declare share purchases. As of Dec. 31 last year, it had raised its stake to 22.6 percent.On Saturday, LVMH charged that the AMF document was procured in “illicit ways,” whereas it had respected the rules of confidentiality around the AMF’s investigation, launched in November 2010.Moreover, it noted the sanctions committee would not deliver its decision until after it had examined evidence presented in LVMH’s defense that it respected market rules.Reached by WWD on Saturday, an Hermès spokeswoman had no comment on Le Monde’s report.Meanwhile, LVMH and Hermès are duking it out in court over the stake.Hermès last year launched a criminal complaint against LVMH, accusing the world’s largest luxury conglomerate of insider trading, collusion and manipulating stock prices.LVMH in turn filed a suit against Hermès for slander, blackmail and unfair competition.Last month, Hermès ceo Patrick Thomas said he remained “extremely confident” concerning the outcome of the AMF investigation and the criminal complaint.Last year, Hermès grouped family-owned shares into a nonlisted holding company to gird it against further advances by LVMH.The Dumas, Puech and Guerrand families collectively own more than 70 percent of the shares in Hermès International, a limited partnership structure that guarantees they keep control of management.The H51 holding company groups 50.2 percent of the firm’s capital and has priority purchasing rights on the remaining shares held by the family members participating in the initiative — some 12.6 percent of capital.
Exclusive: @dsquared2 signs fragrance licensing agreement with Euroitalia, with the first effort of the new partnership being unveiled in September. The brand will launch two scents – one for men and one for women – in Italy. Read our interview with designer Dean and Dan Caten on WWD.com. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: @zefashioninsider)
@louisvuitton has officially renewed Nicolas Ghesquière’s contract as artistic director of women's collections. "I am very pleased to open the next chapter of the story I started with Louis Vuitton almost 5 years ago," said Ghesquière, who first signed on to design the French luxury brand's women's line in 2013. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
“I learned then and there that I had to figure out a way in life to maintain and preserve my sense of pride when I felt good about what I did or what I represented or created,” said @saintrecords on how being bullied for wearing capri pants inspired her to be the artist she is today. Knowles was at the 70th Parsons Benefit last night where she outbid the room for a Dapper Dan customized @gucci experience. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
“There’s this amazing braintrust of people who know the whole universe so well. So we talked to them and they gave us more input,” said actor Alden Ehrenreich on playing the young Han Solo in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” The cast was at NYC’s SVA Theatre last night for an advanced screening of the film, which hits theaters this week. #wwdeye #starwars #hansolo (📷: @aurorarosedecrosta)
@asaprocky spent nearly two hours in a Plexiglas box Sunday night at @sothebys putting himself through a series of “tests” to demonstrate the process of completing his new album called “Testing.” Get all the details and see all the pictures on WWD.com. #wwdeye
“I’ve struggled my whole life to find a bathing suit that fits me that doesn’t look like a maternity bra. I’m proud of the line because it’s an accurate representation of me rather than me putting on someone else’s clothes,” says @atlantabean of her swimwear collaboration with @piaarrobio, LPA X ATL. The two decided on a swimwear collab and increased the industry standard size for the pieces. Read more about the line — and our interview with de Cadenet Taylor and Arrobio — on WWD.com #wwdfashion
Exclusive: Cate Blanchett has been named the first global beauty ambassador for @armanibeauty. Blanchett has been the face of the brand’s Sì fragrance franchise since 2013, and is now representing all of the label’s beauty categories including makeup and skin care. #wwdbeauty (📷: @zefashioninsider)