Extended Kering Group poised to buy control of Courrèges
Word of the negotiations emerged in a novel manner on Friday, after Coqueline Courrèges, widow of founder André Courrèges interrupted Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault at a live industry debate in Paris.
“I don’t like what you have done with Balenciaga, which is gross; and I don’t like the idea of what you might do with Courrèges," the widow told Pinault in a minute-long rant during a Q&A with the CEO of Condé Nast France Xavier Romatet at Vogue Paris Fashion Festival.
Courrèges, dressed in the house’s signature all-white, then proceeded to unveil a large A3 sheet with the logo of Balenciaga – a Kering Group brand – on one side, and images of semi-naked women on the other.
“I am perfectly proud of what we are doing at Balenciaga,” Pinault quietly responded, before security quietly guided the widow away.
He did not comment on her effective claim that Kering was buying Courrèges, however well-informed sources insist that Kering or Groupe Artémis, the Pinault family investment vehicle that controls the giant French luxury group, is on the cusp of acquiring control of Courrèges from its current owners Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting, two advertising executives. Back in 2015 there were unconfirmed reports that Artémis had acquired a 30% stake in Courrèges. A spokesperson for Kering confirmed to FashionNetwork.com that Artémis had indeed acquired the 30% stake, but referred all other enquiries to the Pinault holding company. An Artémis spokeswoman did not return calls. This June, the Pinaults used Artémis to buy a large minority stake in Giambattista Valli.
Exact figures are unknown, but it is estimated Courrèges has annual sales of less than €20 million, and is believed to be loss-making. The house does list several hundred sales points on its own website, but many of these are optical and sunglass stores as fashion boutiques. The house also closed its historic production plant in Pau this year, shedding 18 out of 23 staff, in a significant retreat by the owners. Though its famed flagship boutique at 40 rue François 1er remains open, a valuable property believed to be owned by the house.
At Courrèges, François Le Ménahèze, who was named president in April, insisted he was unaware of any negotiations. “I have heard a lot about Madame Courrèges, and heard she is special person. I know she doesn’t love Mr. Pinault. There are a lot of rumors. I just began a few months ago – not to prepare a sale of Courrèges, but to maintain and develop the house,” Le Ménahèze said.
André Courrèges, a civil engineer by training who died last year, founded his house in 1961, going on to become a highly influential designer due to his clean, geometric designs and sculpted mono-color shapes. Credited by many with inventing the mini skirt, Courrèges is regarded as the most important Futurist designer in fashion history. In 2011, Courrèges sold his house to Bungert and Torloting. They brought the house back onto the Paris catwalk in 2015, after hiring two talented young French designers Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant, who closed their own ANDAM-winning brand Coperni when they joined. This spring, however, the owners sacked Meyer and Vaillant despite the joint creative directors receiving very favorable reviews. Tellingly, the house has not named a replacement a full four months after the design duo left in late July.
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