default-output-block.skip-main
BoF Logo

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.

Richemont Says Ex-Bulgari CEO Is ‘Inappropriate’ for Board

The group urged shareholders to vote against activist investor Bluebell’s proposal to appoint Francesco Trapani to the board because he is too closely associated with arch-rival LVMH.
The exterior of a Cartier store showcasing jewels in the window display and the stores signage at the top.
Cartier-owner Richemont says ex-Bulgari CEO is "inappropriate" for board because he is too closely associated with arch-rival LVMH. (Getty Images)

Richemont, the maker of Cartier jewellery, said shareholders should vote against the appointment of Francesco Trapani to the board because he is too closely associated with arch-rival LVMH.

In a ratcheting up of the battle between the luxury group and activist investor Bluebell Capital Partners Ltd., which proposed the appointment, Richemont said Trapani is an “inappropriate candidate” and his election is not in the interest of the company.

Richemont chairman Johann Rupert controls the high-end group through its ‘B’-class shares. The South African billionaire holds 10 percent of the company’s share capital and 51 percent of its voting rights, according to the company’s most recent annual report. The ‘A’ shares are publicly traded and have a bigger economic interest but lower voting rights than Rupert.

Bluebell, which has a history of taking on large European companies, wants a representative for the ‘A’ shareholders and proposed ex-Bulgari chief executive officer Trapani, who led the jewellery brand for nearly three decades until 2011. Trapani was also a founding partner of Bluebell in 2019.

Richemont said Monday that Bluebell, which has a relatively small stake, lacks the “legitimacy” to represent the ‘A’ shareholders.

The luxury group’s shares were little changed in early Swiss trading, and have fallen 17 percent this year.

Bluebell’s likelihood of success in shaking up Richemont’s board has been met with skepticism by analysts because of Rupert’s firm grip on the Swiss company. Bluebell wasn’t immediately available to comment.

Richemont objects to Trapani because he was the CEO of Bulgari when it was acquired by LVMH and served as chairman and CEO of the rival’s watches and jewellery division between 2011 and 2014. Trapani was also on LVMH’s board of directors for a period and acted as an adviser to the luxury group’s founder and CEO Bernard Arnault.

“LVMH is one of our company’s key competitors,” Richemont said in a letter to shareholders. “The board may not responsibly recommend to shareholders to let a person who has a long association with that group — as well as personal relationship with that group’s main shareholder — become a director of our company and intervene in our company’s decision-making process.”

Richemont already has the “best jewellery and luxury experts in-house, both on the board and in the executive management,” making any contribution by Trapani unnecessary, the company said.

In 34 years of existence no investor had ever asked for a representative for those owning ‘A’ shares, the company said, adding that all board directors act in the interest of all shareholders. In response to Bluebell’s motion, however, it has recommended current board member Wendy Luhabe be designated as the representative of the ‘A’ shareholders.

Luhabe has been on Richemont’s board since 2020 and has served in a number of roles in large South African companies.

Only holders of ‘A’ shares will be entitled to vote on this agenda item and the candidate with the highest number of votes will be appointed.

Learn more:

Activist Investor Fights for Broader Representation at Richemont

Activist shareholder Bluebell Capital Partners claimed a partial victory in its efforts to overhaul management at luxury group Richemont after the company proposed the appointment of a director to look after the interests of ordinary shareholders.

In This Article

© 2021 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.
CONNECT WITH US ON
Inside the $7 Billion Dior Phenomenon
© 2022 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions and Privacy policy.
Inside the $7 Billion Dior Phenomenon