PARIS — Financière Agache, Bernard Arnault’s main holding company, said Thursday it plans to convert into a limited joint-stock partnership in a move designed to hand control of the entity to his five children.
Following the conversion, the control of Agache will be exercised by its general partner, Agache Commandité SAS, the share capital of which will be held equally between the children of the chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton: Delphine Arnault, Antoine Arnault, Alexandre Arnault, Frédéric Arnault and Jean Arnault.
All of them work for LVMH and are in line to succeed their father as head of the group.
Agache is the controlling shareholder of Christian Dior SE and LVMH SE. The Arnault family group cumulatively controls 48 percent of LVMH’s capital and 63.5 percent of its voting rights, according to stock market regulator AMF. Meanwhile, it holds 97.5 percent of the capital of Christian Dior SE, which controls LVMH, and 98.4 percent of voting rights.
Bernard Arnault, 73, will be the first and only managing general partner of Agache. Thereafter, Agache Commandité SAS is due to be appointed as managing general partner, suggesting that responsibility for the family group will fall to the five children equally.
“This new structure will permit to perpetuate the family control over the long term and will permit a unified expression of the controlling shareholder’s voice regarding Christian Dior SE and LVMH SE,” Agache said in a statement published after the market close on Thursday.
Bernard Arnault said: “LVMH, a family-owned group, works to ensure the long-term development of each of its maisons while preserving their unique characters and their strengths. In this respect, the conversion of Agache into a limited joint-stock partnership (société en commandite par actions) announced today, which does not change its current shareholding, will ensure that its control over the LVMH group will be maintained over the long term.”
The new structure locks in ownership of the holding group’s shares. In a regulatory filing, the AMF said shares in Agache Commandité could not be sold or transferred for 30 years, unless decided unanimously by a five-person administration committee, which will consist initially of the five siblings.
At the end of this period, only descendants of Bernard Arnault or legal entities wholly owned by these descendants may hold shares, and any transfer of shares in Agache Commandité will be subject to a right of first refusal as set out in the shareholders’ agreement, the AMF specified.
Luxury rival Hermès International used a similar legal structure to protect itself against a creeping acquisition by LVMH. In 2011, the Court of Appeal in Paris handed Hermès a major victory by authorizing it to group family-owned shares into a non-listed holding company. In a court-brokered agreement, LVMH eventually agreed to distribute its Hermès stake to shareholders.