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Pinault Shifts Another PPR Executive

PARIS — Tightening his grip on his family’s retail and luxury empire, François-Henri Pinault on Tuesday made another top management change.<BR><BR>Less than a week after Pinault said he would succeed Serge Weinberg as PPR’s...

PARIS — Tightening his grip on his family’s retail and luxury empire, François-Henri Pinault on Tuesday made another top management change.

Less than a week after Pinault said he would succeed Serge Weinberg as PPR’s chief executive officer effective March 21, PPR moved Christophe Cuvillier from its Fnac division to become the chairman and ceo of Conforama, the world’s second-largest home furnishings retailer with 2004 sales of 3.1 billion euros, or $4.03 billion at current exchange. He also becomes a member of PPR’s executive committee.

Cuvillier, 42, succeeds Per Kaufmann, who exits the French conglomerate after an eight-year career.

A five-year veteran of Fnac, a retailer of books, music and consumer electronics, Cuvillier was most recently its chief operating officer for international, subsidiaries and development.

Before joining PPR, Cuvillier — a graduate of the same business school as Pinault, HEC — had a long career at L’Oréal, most recently as managing director of the beauty company’s luxury products division in France.

Analysts greeted Tuesday’s news with caution, saying further management changes could cast a pall of uncertainty over the group, even if the financial picture is solid.

French press reports suggest Patrice Marteau, chief financial officer, and François Potier, head of human resources, could also leave the group. Both are considered part of the Weinberg era at PPR, and the young Pinault is said to be eager to put his stamp on the business and appoint his own deputies.

A PPR spokesman denied the two executives were leaving.

In a research note, Antoine Belge, analyst at HSBC in Paris, noted Cuvillier has no specific knowledge of home furnishings retail and exits a PPR unit whose profitability has “stagnated over the last few years at a low level.”

Conforama, which generates 18 percent of PPR sales, is the group’s most profitable retail concept after the CFAO African trading company, HSBC notes.

This story first appeared in the February 9, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.