Byline: Sharon Edelson

NEW YORK — Louis Vuitton U.S. president Thomas J. O’Neill has been named chief executive officer of Marc Jacobs International.
O’Neill’s boss, Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, made a one-third investment in Jacobs’s business when the designer signed on to develop a ready-to-wear collection for Louis Vuitton.
O’Neill, who retains his responsibilities at Vuitton while assuming his new role at Marc Jacobs, said, “This is something that Marc, Robert and I decided. It’s going to be a terrific opportunity for us to bring the brand to a bigger audience.”
He was referring to Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs International, who on Monday added the position of creative director to his title.
“The business has been very successful for us, and it requires an awful lot of time,” O’Neill said. “This recognizes the future development of the brand and Robert’s importance in assisting Marc on the creative side.”
He said Jacobs’s involvement with Louis Vuitton has taken a toll on the designer’s time.
“The need for continuous creative direction is obvious with the growth of the Marc Jacobs brand,” O’Neill said. “We felt it was the right time for Robert to take on additional responsibility. He and Marc go way back. Robert understands clearly what Marc’s vision is and is able to articulate that very clearly to the creative team at Marc Jacobs.”
The moves come at a time when Marc Jacobs International is broadening its distribution on a selective basis in the U.S. and gradually overseas, where the brand is available in the U.K., France, Germany and Japan.
“The short term focus is on the U.S. business,” O’Neill said. “We are looking very judiciously at key markets. The next place we’ll look at seriously is California.
“We are also looking at aggressive expansion of our wholesale distribution,” O’Neill said. “We have a network of wholesale accounts throughout the country. We want to be a more important resource for existing retailers.”
Jacobs opened his first store on Mercer Street in SoHo in August 1997.
At the time, Duffy said Vuitton didn’t invest in that store but would back subsequent retail ventures.
Jacobs presented his first rtw collection for Louis Vuitton in January in Paris. The line has yet to be seen in the U.S., but will make its debut in August when Louis Vuitton’s store in SoHo is slated to open.
In other news, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton said Monday that shareholders last week approved the board’s proposed annual dividend of $3.68.
Taking into account an interim dividend of $1.04 paid last Dec. 1, the firm said the balance, or $2.64, was being paid out Monday.
In the prior year, LVMH paid a dividend of $3.37. Dollar figures are translated from the French franc at current exchange.

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