Not so, said Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, at the company’s annual general meeting in Paris on Thursday. The luxury titan, flanked by members of the group’s executive committee onstage, was responding to a query during the meeting’s question-and-answer session.
Asked to comment on rumors that a senior LVMH executive had met with members of the Wertheimer family, which controls Chanel, to explore an acquisition, Arnault said: “Chanel is an outstanding business, but we are not in contact with them. I don’t know who told you that, but in my opinion, it’s fake news. There’s a lot of that around, you know.”
LVMH surprised markets in October 2010 when it revealed it had amassed a 17.1 percent stake in Hermès via cash-settled equity swaps that allowed it to circumvent the usual regulations requiring firms to declare share purchases. Over the next few years, it raised its stake to 23.2 percent.
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The share acquisition triggered an investigation by France’s stock market regulator and a legal battle between the two companies, which eventually signed a truce in 2014 that saw LVMH distribute its Hermès stake to shareholders.
Privately held Chanel is the object of regular speculation, although Alain and Gérard Wertheimer, the reclusive billionaire brothers who own the maker of 2.55 handbags and tweed jackets, have given no public indication that the brand might be for sale.