PARIS – Alain Chevalier, co-founder of French luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has died at the age of 87. Chevalier passed away on Thursday at his home in Megève, according to a family notice published in the French daily Le Figaro.
In 1987, Chevalier merged his Moët Hennessy group with Henry Racamier’s Louis Vuitton, forming LVMH. As chairman of the group in 1989, Chevalier found himself at the center of French magnate Bernard Arnault’s most famous corporate conquest.
Racamier, the leader of the Vuitton family at the time, had enlisted Arnault’s help in 1988 to ward off raiders of the LVMH leather goods, Champagne, cognac and perfume group, which was publicly traded but controlled by a jumble of bickering families.
At Racamier’s behest, Arnault took a minority stake. But when Racamier added new conditions to the terms of their deal, Arnault turned on him and pitted family member against family member, launching what became one of the nastiest hostile takeover bids in French history.
The battle even prompted François Mitterrand, then France’s president, to chide both sides in a nationally televised speech and urge the French stock market regulator to investigate.
French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Chevalier, noting that he was born in Algeria at a time when it was still a French colony.
“Always remaining faithful to the memory of his native land, he put his intelligence and his talent at the service of politics and business, contributing through his vision and determination to making France the leader in luxury with the creation and the development of the Moët Hennessy group, and then LVMH,” the president said in a statement.
“But he was above all a man of culture and freedom, faithful not to a single man or party, but to what he thought was fair and true. He faced many battles with the same courage with which, as a young man, he had faced war and exile. He will remain a great example of intelligence and dignity,” Macron said.
LVMH also issued a statement.
“LVMH salutes the memory of Alain Chevalier, the great industrialist who took part in 1987 in the merger of Moët-Hennessy and Louis Vuitton. He then presided over the LVMH group until 1989, thereby opening the way to the creation of what would become the world’s foremost luxury group: today, LVMH consists of 70 houses of unparalleled history and knowhow, and employs 150,000 people worldwide,” the group said.
After his exit from LVMH, Chevalier briefly owned French luxury house Balmain.
He is survived by his wife, four children and seven grandchildren. Funeral services will take place at the Basilique Sainte-Clothilde in Paris on Nov. 7.