Feb 12, 2013
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LVMH appoints TAG Heuer CEO Babin to head Bulgari

Feb 12, 2013

ZURICH - Luxury goods group LVMH named a new chief executive at its jewellery brand Bulgari on Tuesday as part of a management rejig triggered by the surprise departure of the chief of its flagship brand Louis Vuitton.

Jean-Christophe Babin, currently head of LVMH's watch brand TAG Heuer, will take over at Bulgari, filling a post left vacant by Michael Burke's move to the top position at Louis Vuitton, whose chief quit in December after just a month in the role.

Jean-Christophe Babin, the new CEO of Bulgari

Bulgari's leadership is important for LVMH, which acquired the brand for 3.7 billion euros ($5 billion) in 2011.

"Bulgari is their most important asset in watches and jewellery, but also a tough nut to crack, as far as creating value for shareholders (is concerned), given the acquisition premium paid," Exane BNP Paribas analyst Luca Solca said.

The executive changes come in the wake of the departure of Jordi Constans from Louis Vuitton over health problems.

Babin, who is a French and Italian citizen and speaks fluent Italian, will take up his new role in Rome before June 30, LVMH said. A spokeswoman for TAG Heuer, LVMH's biggest watch brand whose diversification into eyewear and mobile phones was overseen by Babin, said no successor had been named so far.

LVMH only diversified into watches just over a decade ago. Apart from TAG Heuer, it owns the Hublot and Zenith brands as well as watch and jewellery brand Chaumet.

A father of five, Babin arrived in Switzerland in 2000 to take over as TAG Heuer CEO after having previously worked at Procter & Gamble and Boston Consulting Group, where he learned Italian while travelling between the Paris and Milan offices from 1988 onwards.

In 1994, he joined consumer goods company Henkel's Italian subsidiary, but it was through his wife, an Italian national and marketing director for LVMH's Moet Hennessy wines and spirits for Italy, that he first made contact with the world of luxury goods.

"I would think LVMH needs more managerial talent from the outside to beef up its talent pool. But in this case, they must have thought they had 'the man'," Solca said.

Last year, Philippe Pascal, former head of LVMH's watches and jewellery unit and personal adviser to group Chief Executive Bernard Arnault, left LVMH to pursue a career outside the group.

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