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Lagerfeld, Chanel Business Master Card

The curtain rose this summer on Chanel, the employer of Karl Lagerfeld since 1982. Until now, the luxury house did not publish its accounts. It is therefore impossible to know the revenue generated by the various activities of this company: haute couture, ready-to-wear, leather goods and cosmetics. The most optimistic estimates showed a business volume of about $ 5 billion (about € 4.4 billion) per year. It's actually almost twice as much. In 2017, the banner generated 8.4 billion euros in revenue, an increase of 11.5% compared to 2016. The net profit: 1.8 billion euros is the measure of this which is practiced in the luxury sector. This transparency operation was obviously driven by Chanel's new CFO, Philippe Blondiaux. Objective: show the three main competitors, LVMH (Dior Vuitton …) Kering (Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent …) and Hermes that Chanel plays in the same division as them, even exceeding the latter and its 5.5 billion figure business.

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Chanel is a totally family-owned company, wholly owned by two brothers, Alain and Gérard Wertheimer. They are the grandsons of Pierre Wertheimer who bought the company in 1954 to market the famous perfume # 5 Created in 1921. Extremely discreet, they refuse any contact with the media, and share between New York, where lives Alain, and Geneva where Gerard settled. When in 1976 they take the reins of the family group after their grandfather, the house is a sleeping beauty. To wake her up, they call on Karl Lagerfeld and give him carte blanche and the title of artistic director. His contract, recently valued at 12 million euros a year, was supervised at the time of his signature by Eliane Fischer, the mother of Alain and Gérard Wertheimer, a lawyer registered at the Paris Bar.

At the helm of Karl Lagerfeld's creation, he refined the notion of a supermodel attached to the brand. It will be first Inès de la Fressange then Claudia Schiffer. He tackles the dedusting of the brand and especially its essentials like the tailor or the quilted leather bag with the golden chain. The artistic director also understood the economic issue of accessories development. Sold at low prices, they are a hit, even with a public unaccustomed to provide luxury.

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The commercial success of the brand contributes to the prosperity of Karl Lagerfeld who particularly likes investing in stone. One of his residences, La Vigie, located in Monaco, is going to be the source of his fiscal troubles. It is actually located in French territory and will allow the sleuths of the General Tax Directorate to inflict a severe recovery. However, it seems that the Ministry of Finance, over the years, has shown a certain "understanding" towards the taxpayer Karl Lagerfeld. According to a note drawn up by the tax authorities in December 1995, the person concerned received a discount of 50 million francs (7.6 million euros). Four years later, the tax claimed 93.5 million francs which will eventually be reduced to 45 million euros. The argument is then that the tax residence of Karl Lagerfeld is difficult to establish (France, Monaco or elsewhere …) and that the litigation could get bogged down. And even in the high spheres of the state, one does not take the risk of seeing Karl Lagerfeld, the great master of Chanel, away permanently from the Hexagon.

Franck Bouaziz

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