LONDON — Swarovski is on the hunt for a new chief executive officer and chief financial officer, and the roles could be filled by executives from outside the founding family for the first time in the company’s 126-year history.
Swarovski has confirmed that Robert Buchbauer, who took up the CEO role last year following a company-wide shakeup, and Mathias Margreiter, are resigning this month, and the search for their respective replacements has begun.
The company, which is based in Wattens, Austria, said it has been working toward separating “control and management roles” at the company, which has historically been run by the descendants of founder Daniel Swarovski.
As a result of the new strategy, Buchbauer and Margreiter, who is also a family member, are withdrawing from day-to-day operations, “but will continue to help shape the future of the company as members of the board of directors,” the company confirmed.
Swarovski added that it will “open up the possibility for the non-family management of the company,” and that it plans to reorganize and expand the various boards of the company “to qualified, independent persons.”
The family interests, meanwhile, will be bundled in the newly established family holding company.
Buchbauer’s departure was unexpected: He took over as CEO last April in a major reshuffle that saw his relative Nadja Swarovski leave the day-to-day operations of the company.
The London-based Nadia Swarovski immediately turned her attention to the Swarovski Foundation, which she created in 2013 and which has sustainability, environmental and social issues at its core. She remains a member of the Swarovski executive board.
Shortly after taking up the top role, Buchbauer culled some 600 positions as part of his restructuring plan, with the COVID-19 crisis adding urgency to his efforts at the family-owned crystal-maker.
As reported, he merged marketing and sales activities, streamlined distribution channels and shut the London-based Atelier jewelry line, which had been run by Nadja Swarovski.
As part of his efforts to nudge the brand into a more premium jewelry segment, he named Giovanna Engelbert creative director, and she has since overseen the creation of a new line of colorful jewelry for the brand’s new Instant Wonder stores.
Swarovski’s owning families said they are seeking “fresh impetus” for company growth by bringing in new expertise, and said the reorganized board of directors will carry forward the “already initiated process for reappointing the CEO and CFO roles.”
Swarovski described the changes as ushering in a “new era” for the company that will allow it to manage the group’s affairs worldwide in a more unified manner and according to best practice. The moves are also meant to “professionalize” Swarovski’s various boards with talent and expertise from outside the family.
The CEO and CFO roles will be temporarily occupied by members of the existing management team until successors are found, and Swarovski said they will continue the current strategy and the repositioning of the Swarovski brand in the affordable luxury segment.
The company added that the “owner families” stand by their responsibility to Swarovski, the Wattens location and the employees “and they are confident that they have initiated the return to a profitable and growing company with their chosen path.”
The company was founded in 1895 in Austria, and the group is comprised of Swarovski Optik, which makes optical devices; Tyrolit, which produces abrasives materials, and the Swarovski Crystal Business.
In an interview late last year, Buchbauer spoke to WWD about the company’s evolution. “In all challenges lie opportunities, and with the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve had the opportunity to further develop our strategy,” he said.
“I’m really working on making the company one Swarovski and abandoning the divisional approach that we’ve had over many years and leading everything with one team, one functional team that takes care of all aspects of the business.”