* Head of Richemont brand Baume et Mercier also resigns
* Strategic differences of opinion cited as reason
By Katie Reid
ZURICH, Sept 22 (Reuters) - The head of watchmaker Lange & Soehne, part of Swiss-based luxury goods group Richemont CFR.VX, has stepped down due to differences of opinion over strategy, the German watch brand said on Tuesday.
Fabian Krone’s departure comes hot on the heels of news that Alain Zimmermann, chief marketing officer at Richemont’s IWC, would replace Michel Nieto as CEO at another of the group’s watch brands, Baume et Mercier.
Lange & Soehne Chief Operating Officer Jerzy Schaper will take over with immediate effect as interim head at the German marque, said the watchmaker that was bought by Richemont in 2001. It gave no further explanation for the change.
Richemont spokesman Alan Grieve said there were no plans to mix the “maisons” or business units and their products and each would continue to have its own production, marketing and design activities.
“There was a reorganisation internally (at Baume) and somewhere along the lines there was a disagreement in the strategic direction of the business,” Grieve said.
Baume et Mercier, which is in a lower price category than other Richemont brands Cartier and IWC, has been particularly exposed to the collapse in demand for luxury accessories as a large part of its business is in the United States, which was hit hard by the downturn.
“Baume et Mercier is most likely the Richemont watch brand with the biggest problems at the moment,” said ZKB analyst Patrik Schwendimann.
“It has never been an easy brand to run as it is positioned in the category of access luxury that faces heavy competition. As far as I know their geographical exposure is also not helping currently because of an above average exposure to the U.S.,” he said.
The Swiss watch industry is facing its sharpest decline in demand in around two decades as consumers cut back on pricey wares due to worries about job security and the dwindling value of their investment portfolios. [ID:nLM184460] (Editing by David Holmes)