* Star designer helped turn Vuitton into global fashion
* Move follows series of Vuitton management changes
* Nicolas Ghesquiere tipped as possible successor
By Astrid Wendlandt and Pascale Denis
PARIS, Oct 2 Marc Jacobs, the star designer who
turned Louis Vuitton from a staid luggage-maker into the world's
biggest luxury brand, is leaving to take his own label public, a
source close to the French company's parent, LVMH,
said on Wednesday.
The move follows a series of leadership changes at Louis
Vuitton, LVMH's biggest source of profit and revenue, aimed at
helping the brand regain some of its lost prestige after a
decline in sales growth over the past year.
"Marc Jacobs is leaving Vuitton and will focus on his own
brand," the source said on condition of anonymity.
LVMH and Marc Jacobs declined to comment, but the source
said the designer aims to float his business - which is
estimated to generate sales of around 500 million euros - in an
initial public offering.
"There is an IPO project for the MJ brand," the source told
Some industry observers have suggested Jacobs has been
encouraged by the success of Michael Kors Holdings Ltd,
the U.S. affordable luxury brand whose sales have been enjoying
stellar growth. That brand's revenue rose 54 percent last
quarter, pinching Coach Inc in the handbags market, and
Kors is expanding in Europe and Asia.
Kors shares have nearly quadrupled since the company priced
them at $20 in its IPO in late 2011. Another high-end fashion
brand, Vince, last month filed to go public on the New York
Stock Exchange. Vince had sales of $708 million
in the last fiscal year.
LVMH owns nearly all of Marc Jacobs International, the
operating company, while the trademark ownership is split
equally between LVMH, Jacobs, and Jacobs' partner, Robert Duffy.
"Marc Jacobs' departure is not a big surprise," said analyst
Antoine Belge at HSBC. "But if the IPO is confirmed, LVMH will
lose one of its fastest-growing brands."
LVMH shares closed down 2.2 percent in trading in Paris,
wiping out $2 billion of its market value.
Jacobs' departure after 16 years with the company comes a
month after LVMH founder and chief executive Bernard Arnault
appointed his daughter Delphine as deputy head of Louis Vuitton
and replaced last year longstanding chief Yves Carcelle with
group veteran Michael Burke.
Louis Vuitton, which built its name and profitability on its
LV-embossed canvas bags, has been suffering from cooling demand
in Asia and consumers' growing preference for no-logo products.
Over the past year, the brand has put brakes on its
expansion to preserve its exclusivity in response to fears it
was becoming too ubiquitous, which contributed to its sales
growth halving to around 5 percent.
Last month, it hired accessories designer Darren Spaziani,
formerly with Proenza Schouler, to strengthen its high-end
offering of leather bags.
Nicolas Ghesquiere, a darling of fashion editors, who left
Balenciaga last year after having successfully revamped the
Kering fashion brand, is seen as a frontrunner to
"It would be a positive sign if Ghesquiere joined Louis
Vuitton as he is one of the most coveted designers today and he
would give a creative jolt to the brand," said David Da Maia,
analyst at brokerage Aurel BGC in Paris.
Arnault has been regularly changing the creative and
management teams of his fashion brands to refresh their style
and drive expansion.
LVMH's Celine has been doing well since award-winning
designer Phoebe Philo took its creative helm in 2008 while
Riccardo Tisci has brought new vitality to Givenchy since his
appointment in 2005.
Jacobs, whose theatrical fashion shows contributed to
heightening the brand's profile, introduced collaborations with
artists such as Richard Prince, Takashi Murakami and Stephen
Sprouse, as well as a recent collaboration with rapper Kanye
West, to help make the brand more appealing.
Jacobs, a bearded 50-year-old American, is regarded as one
of the most respected and influential designers in the fashion
While Jacobs has not said anything about his departure, he
once said in an interview on the Louis Vuitton website: "Change
is a great and horrible thing. People love it and hate it at the
same time. Without change you just don't move."
Jacobs on Wednesday presented his last collection for Louis
Vuitton, an all-black swan song that incorporated elements from
his past shows such as the train station he once created and the
slow-turning white carousel carrying models, including Kate
Moss, of two years ago.
Today, the Marc Jacobs brand and particularly its more
accessible line Marc by Marc Jacobs, which he launched in 2001,
are among the most profitable fashion subsidiaries within LVMH,
enjoying strong demand in the United States and Japan.
That less-expensive line accounts for about 80 percent of
the brand's revenue, according to estimates by some analysts.
Marc Jacobs also launched a cosmetics line in August in the
United States, with distribution handled by Sephora, LVMH's
beauty products retail chain.
At the age of 24, Jacobs was the youngest designer to
receive the New Fashion Talent award from the Council of Fashion
Designers of America. After graduating from the Parsons New
School of Design, Jacobs worked for Perry Ellis and created his
own label in 1984 with Duffy.
He became Louis Vuitton's artistic director in 1997, the
same year Jacobs opened his first eponymous store in New York's
trendy SoHo district. He began expanding more aggressively the
following decade, and now has 200 stores around the globe,
including 36 in fast-growing China.
When Dior sacked John Galliano two years ago after a video
showed him making anti-Semitic comments in a Paris bar, Jacobs
was one of the leading contenders to replace him but according
to reports, talks fell through over terms. In the end, Dior took
more than a year to appoint Raf Simons as its new designer.