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Richemont reintroduces CEO role as sales rise

[GENEVA] Cartier maker Richemont on Monday named group veteran Jerome Lambert as chief executive officer to help the world's second biggest luxury goods group master adjust to changing consumer habits and put its watch brands back on track.

Richemont, also known for IWC and Piaget watches, scrapped the CEO role a year and a half ago, upon the retirement of Richard Lepeu, and appointed a senior executive committee to manage the group.

At the time, Jerome Lambert, currently chief operating officer, and Georges Kern were both seen as candidates to one day take over as CEO, but Kern has since left to pilot rival brand Breitling.

"Jerome's new role sees him taking responsibility for the Group's future growth at a time when consumer habits are changing significantly," Richemont's controlling shareholder and Chairman Johann Rupert was quoted as saying in a statement.

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Rupert said Lambert would work as "first amongst equals" with the heads of Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and the group's finance head on the senior executive committee "to ensure a coherent approach to achieving our common goals while respecting the individuality of our Maisons".

Also on Monday, Richemont reported a 10 per cent rise in constant currency sales growth in the five months to Aug. 31, driven by strong sales at its jewellery brands, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, particularly in Asia Pacific and the Americas.

Including recently acquired online retailers Yoox Net-a-Porter (YNAP) and, constant currency sales even jumped by a quarter to 5.67 billion euros (S$9.03 billion) in the five-month period, Richemont said.

"All regions, with the exception of the Middle East, posted growth, led by solid momentum in Asia Pacific and the Americas. Hong Kong, Korea and Macau all generated double digit increases while China showed good growth," the Geneva-based group said, which holds its annual general meeting later on Monday.

Sales at the group's watch brands only rose 4 per cent as Richemont continued to adjust inventories by buying back unsold stock from retail partners.

"We very much welcome the CEO announcement as leadership is now clear with Jerome Lambert being responsible for the group," Vontobel analyst Rene Weber said, but said performance at the group's watch brands was still disappointing.

Shares in Richemont were set to open 2.1 per cent higher, according to pre-market indications by bank Julius Baer .