LONDON — The guard is changing at Compagnie Financière Richemont SA, parent of brands including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and IWC.
Bernard Fornas will retire from his current role as co-chief executive officer on March 31. He will also retire from Richemont’s senior executive committee and the group management committee.
Fornas will continue to serve on the board of directors as a non-executive director and will serve on its nominations committee. He will stand for reelection by the shareholders at the next annual general meeting on Sept. 14.
Fornas had served as co-ceo alongside Richard Lepeu since April 2013 and was a member of the board since September 2013. He joined Cartier in 1994. Lepeu remains in his position.
Richemont said Friday that in his 22 years at the company he made “an outstanding contribution” to the profitable growth of Cartier and to the group in general. “The board looks forward to his contribution in the years ahead.”
Johann Rupert, chairman of Richemont, and its shareholder of reference said “through his understanding of luxury, his leadership skills and his keen eye for detail,” Fornas had been a major figure in the “significant growth” that the group has enjoyed over the past decade.
“As the luxury goods domain evolves around us, Richemont’s board is delighted that Bernard has chosen to serve Richemont’s shareholders for many more years to come,” Rupert added.
The company also said Cyrille Vigneron, Cartier’s ceo, will become a member of the senior executive committee with effect from April 1. He will continue to be a member of the group management committee. As previously announced, Vigneron will also stand for election to the board of directors at the next AGM.
In a separate statement, Richemont said Alain Dominique Perrin will not be standing for reelection to the Richemont board of directors at the next AGM.
He will continue to serve as a member of the board and of its nominations committee until September. He will serve thereafter as a consultant.
In addition, Richemont announced the nomination of Jeff Moss for election to the board of directors. His appointment is subject to the approval of the shareholders at the next AGM. Moss will serve as a non-executive director and become a member of the board’s nominations and strategic security committees.
Moss is a computer security and internet security expert. He currently serves as a member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council; a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council; and a member of the Georgetown University School of Law Cybersecurity Advisory Committee.
Previously, Moss has served as chief security officer of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers; and a director at Secure Computing Corporation. He is the founder of the Black Hat Briefings and Defcon. He is a graduate of Gonzaga University.
Separately, there are more details on job cuts at Richemont’s watch divisions. Citing a report in the Swiss newspaper Tribune de Genève, Thomas Chauvet at Citi said 170 jobs at Cartier’s Neufchatel and Fribourg manufacturing sites are planned, as well as 120 further cuts at Vacheron Constantin and Piaget’s watchmaking units.
“This should come as no surprise given continued subdued demand for watches globally, and negative trends in Greater China,” Chauvet said.
“Both Vacheron Constantin and Piaget have been the most exposed to the gifting crackdown and general demand slowdown in Greater China. The cost implications of these measures will probably feed through negatively in Richemont’s full-year 2016-17 profit and loss accounts.
Richemont, whose core business is in very high-end watches and jewelry, saw sales increase 3 percent on a reported basis, and decrease 4 percent on a constant currency one in the three months to Dec. 31.
Last month, Compagnie Financière Richemont confirmed it is planning to cut up to 350 jobs from its watch manufacturing operations in Switzerland.
A spokeswoman for the company confirmed newspaper reports about the cuts. Last week, Swiss paper Le Temps cited an internal memo from Richemont stating the group would be laying off up to 4 percent of its Swiss workforce.
Richemont is the second-largest luxury goods group after LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. It employs about 9,000 people in Switzerland. Its stable includes Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, IWC, Panerai, Piaget and Montblanc.
According to the newspaper, the memo said Richemont would try to “limit the downsizing as far as possible” by reallocating those affected to other company-owned brands.
The decision to reduce its workforce comes amid ongoing difficulties for the Swiss watch market as a whole, including the strong Swiss franc, fewer tourists and a downturn in the wholesale watch market in China and Hong Kong.