PARIS — It’s all change at Louis Vuitton, which next year will welcome a new chief executive officer — and likely a new artistic director.
Jordi Constans, 47, an executive at French food giant Danone SA, is to succeed Yves Carcelle at the end of 2012 after spending a year familiarizing himself with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and its star, cash-cow brand.
Carcelle, a dynamic executive who helmed the leather goods powerhouse for more than two decades and piloted its rapid global expansion, is to become president of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, a Frank Gehry-designed art museum slated to open in early 2013 on the leafy fringes of Paris.
LVMH said Carcelle would remain on the executive committee of the luxury giant and undertake “strategic roles” alongside Bernard Arnault, its chairman and ceo.
“I am delighted that Jordi Constans is joining the group. Initially, he will have the privilege of working with Yves Carcelle, who has led Louis Vuitton with remarkable success since 1990. I wish him the very best for the future success of this iconic brand within the LVMH Group,” Arnault stated.
Recruiting executives from the fast-moving consumer goods arena is nothing new. It was seen in Gucci Group’s appointment of Unilever ice cream honcho Robert Polet as its chief executive in 2004, and Estée Lauder’s choice of Procter & Gamble’s Fabrizio Freda in 2007.
Carcelle’s exit comes at a time when Vuitton’s artistic director, Marc Jacobs, is in talks to become the new couturier at Christian Dior. As reported Monday, negotiations are described as “tough,” with Dior officials balking at salary demands from the designer and his longtime business partner, Robert Duffy.
Jacobs, in marathon fittings ahead of his signature fashion show scheduled for tonight, could not be reached for comment on Carcelle’s departure.
Jacobs signed on with Vuitton in 1997 and the designer and Carcelle were seen as having a strong relationship as the leather goods firm expanded into ready-to-wear, ramping up its profile, buzz and global footprint.
An LVMH spokesman scoffed at the suggestion Carcelle’s plans to edge out of Vuitton are linked to the fact that Dior seems poised to poach his star talent. The spokesman declined, however, to comment on the prospect of designer musical chairs at the world’s largest luxury goods conglomerate.
It is understood Arnault and LVMH have been quietly preparing a management succession plan at Vuitton for some time given that Carcelle, 63, is nearing retirement age, and that Vuitton is crucial to the group’s fortunes, accounting for the lion’s share of operating profits.
The conglomerate has also been known to bring in rising-star executives and train them for important roles, as it did in 2003 when it tapped Jean-Jacques Guiony from Lazard Frères and had him work under Patrick Houel before he succeeded Houel as LVMH’s chief financial officer.
Carcelle, slated to fly to Singapore today to attend the opening of the Louis Vuitton Island Maison at Marina Bay Sands, could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to Danone’s Web site, Constans is executive vice president of its fresh dairy products division and a member of its executive committee.
A Spanish national and graduate of business and economics from Barcelona’s Central University, he joined Danone in 1990 and held various positions in marketing and sales before becoming general manager for Spain in 2002 and France in 2004.
Well known for its yogurts, Danone is also a giant player in bottled water and baby food.
Carcelle, a driven, energetic and indefatigable executive with a thick crop of salt-and-pepper hair and a ready smile, traveled the world to scout, open and manage boutiques in such far-flung locations as Mongolia. He enjoyed a reputation as one of the most admired executives in the business as Vuitton consistently posted double-digit sales gains, opened ever-larger and more sumptuous boutiques and expanded into new categories of business such as eyewear, watches and fine jewelry.
Dead serious in business, Carcelle is known as a bon vivant in his off hours. His hobbies include sailing, and making his own wine and olive oil at his country home in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France.
A graduate of mathematics and business administration from elite French schools École Polytechnique and INSEAD, Carcelle joined LVMH in 1989 from French bedding giant Descamps, taking the helm of Vuitton a year later.
In the late Nineties, Carcelle relinquished the ceo position at Vuitton to take on a broader role in the LVMH group, overseeing brands including Loewe, Celine, Christian Lacroix, Givenchy, Kenzo, Berluti, Stefanobi, Marc Jacobs, Emilio Pucci, Fendi and Thomas Pink. He was seen as instrumental in LVMH’s investment of a one-third stake in Michael Kors in 1999 and its acquisition of Donna Karan International in 2001.
He returned to the helm of Vuitton in 2002 as it embarked on a powerful push into emerging markets such as China, South Korea and India.
LVMH unveiled the management change Wednesday after the markets closed in Paris, catching many in the industry by surprise.
As reported, shares in LVMH and Dior have seesawed with roiling global markets but without any rerating from equity analysts over the prospect of a change in artistic directors, given Dior’s relatively small footprint and Vuitton’s strength in leather goods, believed to generate more than 75 percent of Vuitton’s sales.
Still, speculation is bound to intensify on who might become the new designer dance partner of Constans.
It is understood Phoebe Philo remains at the top of the list of preferred candidates to succeed Jacobs at Vuitton should he move to Dior. However, the London-based designer, who has heated up Celine with her sleek, minimalist designs, has yet to commit to the project or enter negotiations.
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye