Only 3% of business families make it to the fourth generation. With the ascension of Axel Dumas to CEO in February 2014, Hermès made it to the sixth. But barely.
In a profile, Forbes looks at how the creator of the iconic Birkin was nearly taken over by its biggest competitor. In 2010, a few months after the death of Jean-Louis Dumas, LVMH revealed it had a 22% stake in the company.
At the helm of LVMH is France’s richest man—Bernard Arnault. No stranger to exploiting family tensions, he saw the opportunity to take over one of the few recession-proof luxury groups (in the past five years, its stock value has increased by 175%).
Arnault was right to set his sights on Hermès. Hermès is the fastest rising company in its market. Its iconic bags are the most sought after in the world. A Birkin is a collectible, going for as much as $70,000 at an auction.
How the hundred family shareholders united in the face of the takeover is a fascinating story—but you won’t hear about it from them. The current sixth-gen CEO is characteristically tight-lipped. As Susan Adams writes, “At Hermès, any lasting premium derives from mystique.”