Filling Biver’s Shoes

LVMH has officially appointed Mr Stéphane Bianchi, as the new head of the group’s watchmaking division, with effect from November 1, 2018. He will be directly responsible for TAG Heuer, with the CEOs of Hublot and Zenith reporting to him.

Reuters broke the news yesterday, saying that Mr Jean-Claude Biver, the present head of LVMH’s Watchmaking Division was going to be “dropping his operational responsibilities”. Mr Biver shared with Reuters, over the phone, saying that he would, however, remain in play as non-executive president of LVMH’s watch unit, with focus on TAG Heuer, Zenith and Hublot.

Mr Biver’s ailing health has been a reason to suspect that this has been a long time coming. Earlier in May of 2018, he spent two weeks at a hospital during which he had to undergo three operations related to problems with his back.

Speaking to Reuters, Mr Biver said that while he was getting better, he’s not fully recovered. However, it is nice to know that earlier this week, he was back on the mountains, in his cycling gear.

Newly appointed head of the LVMH Watchmaking Division, Mr Stéphane Bianchi (Photo: Reuters/Benoît Tessier)

LVMH’s latest appointment comes in the wake of a larger management shake-up within the group, made late in 2017. Chief executive, Mr Bernard Arnault’s intentions were clear. He wanted to see a young batch of leaders from within, moved up for the group’s next phase of growth. Pivotal entities, such as, Christian Dior and Moët Hennessy were subject to this generational transition.

Keeping it in the Family

The move, also, brought up the question of how Mr Arnault is looking to have his own children participate in the business, with the eventuality of him handing over the reins. Three of his children already hold senior management roles within the group. His eldest is director and executive vice-president of Louis Vuitton, his second is chief executive of Berluti and chairman of Loro Piana. His third is co-chief executive of Rimowa.

Of his two youngest, Frédéric was already serving as head of connected technologies at TAG Heuer and is, now, moving up to become the strategy and digital director at the brand.

Chief Executive of LVMH, Bernard Arnault (Photo: cnbc.com)
Chief Executive of LVMH, Bernard Arnault (Photo: cnbc.com)
Frédéric Arnault, new Strategy and Digital Director of TAG Heuer (Photo: Getty/Thierry Chesnot)

Mr Arnault’s three eldest are already poised to take up the top roles at their respective brands. Frédéric, too, is most likely to make his way to the top of TAG Heuer and, possibly, eventually to the top of LVMH’s watch division. In the meantime, he has the perfect mentor to guide him through the ranks. His father for sure, but also Mr Stéphane Bianchi.

One of the greater known stories of Mr Bianchi’s career is his time with cosmetics and beauty brand, Yves Rocher. In December of 1994, a few months after Mr Bianchi had joined Yves Rocher, Didier Rocher — son of Mr Yves Rocher (the company’s founder) — passed away in a freak accident at a private shooting range. Didier Rocher was meant have taken over his retired father at this time.

As a result of his son’s death, Mr Yves Rocher had to take back his spot at the company. Four years on, in 1998, he brought on Mr Bianchi as Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Director. In the same year, Didier Rocher’s son, Bris Rocher joined the family business, at the age of 18.

In his role, as Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Director, Mr Bianchi was charged with two fundamental objectives: 1) to turn the company around, 2) to groom Bris Rocher for his inevitable leadership role at the company. Bris Rocher, eventually, took the helm in 2009 and has since led his grandfather’s eponymous beauty company, commendably.

Passing the Torch

Mr Bernard Arnault’s generational transition strategy is, no doubt, a great mindset for any leader to adopt. Point to note though is that Mr Arnault isn’t simply placing leaders who will serve the organization appropriately in their given time and space. He, also, seems to be appointing individuals who understand and appreciate the need to be able to groom succeeding generations of leaders.

So while one of the most revered names in the watchmaking industry, Mr Jean-Claude Biver, is taking a step back, LVMH as a whole has the right idea in place to make sure that the watch brands under its care, have the right leaders to boldly step forward.