BERNARD ARNAULT’S SPECIAL DU JOUR

Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK — Bernard Arnault continued his Internet feeding frenzy on Thursday.
Together with Chicago-based Arch Venture Partners, Europ@web — the internet venture capital company Arnault created earlier this year — invested $11.25 million in Camdens, the upscale, corporate gift e-commerce site, which is slated to launch next week.
Europ@web and Arch join other earlier investors in Camdens, including Viridian Capital, and individual investors including Richard Marcus, former chief executive officer of Neiman Marcus, Jeff Skoll, co-founder of EBay and Tom Alberg, a board member of Amazon.com.
In a statement, Camdens chief executive officer, Fred Reffsin described the firm’s strategic and financial backing as “unmatched in either the e-commerce or upscale merchandise markets. This complements our strategy to revolutionize the corporate gift industry.”
Americans spend more than $23 billion annually on corporate gifts, buying roughly 410 million items.
Andre de Baubigny, managing director for U.S. technology investments at Europ@web, said Camdens has an “unprecedented combination of technology, consumer ease, and premier merchandise partners.”
Camdens possesses several unique features for both gift senders and recipients. Senders can make their selections by price, item or customize an assortment into a virtual gift basket. Recipients are notified of their gift through a personal e-mail that arrives from the gift giver. They then choose from a range of gifts selected by the gift giver and can elect where to have the gift sent.
The system will also allows for the downloading of an entire electronic address book so as many as a thousand gifts can be sent at once.
Camdens gift roster includes fine wine, cigars, gourmet specialty foods, crystal, limited edition books and golf equipment from firms including Calyx & Corolla, Harry M. Abrams, Royal Cashmere, Belding, Never Compromise, Manhattan Fruitier and Portier Fine Foods.
Camdens will spend $25 million on print and radio advertising, concentrated in major markets including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.