In the early 1960s, a 27-year old Frenchman named Francois Pinault started his first business, a small timber company called Les Etablissements Francois Pinault. Given that Pinault left school at age 16 to begin working in his family’s timber business, the nature of his first solo venture made sense. Within a decade, the Cote d’Armor-born Pinault had set his eyes on expansion, buying up various “small, undervalued firms around the country to expand his [own] timber outfit,” according to the Guardian. He built a thriving business of his own in the process.
Pinault’s acquisition endeavors escalated as time went on, as aided by the French government, which “sought to save jobs [in the 1970s] by offering entrepreneurs like Mr. Pinault chances to acquire failing privately owned companies at fire sale prices, often as little as one franc,” the New York Times’ John Tagliabue wrote in 1997. “Pinault gradually amassed a fortune by buying up companies this way, then using government aid to turn them around and sell them at a profit.”
Firmly cemented in the timber business when he set out, over time, Pinault’s targets began to look differently: lumber manufacturers became construction materials providers and paper suppliers. And in the early 1990s, more change came into fruition when Pinault – by way of his company Pinault SA – acquired Au Printemps SA, the French department store chain, and the Pinault-Printemps Group was formed. Two years later, in 1994, the group was renamed (again) to Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, following the merger of La Redoute – a French multi-line retailer specializing in ready to wear apparel – within the group.
But the most significant change to the group’s direction would not come until the late 1990s, ten years after Pinault’s company – then still called Pinault SA – listed on the Paris stock market in 1988, raising capital in order to achieve broader diversification. This would set the company, which is now known as Kering, on a path to becoming one of the largest luxury goods groups in the world, under the direction of Pinault, himself, and then under the watch of his son François-Henri.
Its reign as a luxury powerhouse would begin largely with a single purchase: a Florentine leather goods company named Gucci. From there, the Pinaults, a long way from the elder’s timber trading, distribution and processing days, would swoop in and buy up the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and other fashion houses, such as Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta, thereby, transforming its single fashion offering, Gucci (which, at the time fell under the umbrella of an entity called the Gucci Group), into a multi-brand luxury goods group.
Here is a look at the timeline behind the building of Kering into one of world’s most valuable luxury goods conglomerates …
(Please note: the following is in no way exhaustive of the acquisitions and entities that exist in relation to Kering (or what was formerly called PPR or Pinault-Printemps-Redoute), and instead, focuses exclusively on fashion and a few beauty and jewelry-related entities.)
1999: Gucci – In May 1999, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute purchased a controlling 42 percent stake of the Gucci Group for $3 billion following a long and very public battle with luxury rival for the brand. Later in 2003, Kering raised its stake in the Gucci Group to 67.6 percent, and again in 2004 to 99.4 percent. (For a full look at Kering’s quest for the Gucci Group, you can find that here.)
1999: Yves Saint Laurent – The fashion house, founded in 1961 by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Berge, was acquired by the Gucci Group in 1999. The Gucci Group purchased Sanofi Beaute, owner of the Yves Saint Laurent brand, from PPR, which had purchased it 5 years earlier, for about $1 billion.
1999: Sergio Rossi – Gucci Group acquired a 70 percent stake in the Italian footwear brand, before taking full control in 2004. The group ultimately sold off the Sergio Rossi brand to Aston Martin-owner, Investindustrial, in December 2015.
2000: Boucheron – The Gucci Group acquired a 100 percent stake in the French jewelry and watch house Boucheron in 2000 from its Swiss-based owner Schweizerhall Holding AG for about $145 million.
2001: Bottega Veneta – In February 2001, the Gucci Group acquired a 66.7 percent stake in Bottega Veneta and in July 2001, acquired an additional 11.8 percent in the Italian luxury goods and fashion house, raising its interest in the company to 78.5 percent.
2001: Balenciaga – In July 2001, the Gucci Group acquired a 91 percent stake in Balenciaga, which was founded in 1919 by Cristobal Balenciaga.
2001: Stella McCartney – In 2001, McCartney launched her eponymous label (after leaving her post as creative director of Paris fashion house Chloé), and that same year, announced her partnership with Gucci Group, the latter of which acquired a 50 percent interest in the parties’ joint venture.
It was revealed in March 2018 that McCartney would buy out the 50 percent stake held by Kering in order to create a fully independent brand. The parties did not disclose financial terms for the deal, but the break follows from the fact that McCartney “has a long-standing clause in her contract giving her the option to re-purchase Kering’s stake, exercisable by March 31, 2018.”
2001: Alexander McQueen – The Gucci Group acquired a 51 percent stake in Alexander McQueen, a British luxury fashion house founded by designer Alexander McQueen in 1992, as part of a joint venture.
2007: Puma – Kering seized new growth in 2007 with the purchase of a 27.1 percent controlling stake in the German multi-national sport and lifestyle company Puma for 5.3 billion euros, followed by an increase in stake to 62.1 percent on completion of a tender offer.
In January 2018, Kering announced plans to spin off the German sports brand to its shareholders to focus squarely on its luxury brands. “The distribution of Puma shares to our shareholders will be a significant milestone in the history of the group,” François-Henri Pinault stated in January 2019. “Kering will then dedicate itself entirely to the development of its luxury houses.”
2011: Brioni – Brioni, an Italian menswear couture house founded in 1945, was acquired by Kering in November 2011.
2011: Girard-Perregaux and Jeanrichard – After entering into a strategic partnership with Sowing Group, the owner of watchmakers Girard-Perregaux and Jeanrichard in 2008, Kering took a majority stake in the company in 2011. Accoridng to a release from Kering (then PPR), “PPR will then become the majority shareholder of the company with a 50.1 % stake. PPR already owned a 23 % share based on a strategic partnership agreement signed in 2008 with Sowind Group, then controlled by Luigi Macaluso since 1992.”
2011: Volcom – In 2011, Kering announced its acquisition of Volcom Inc., which includes the Volcom and Electric surfwear brands.
In April 2019, Kering confirmed that it had completed the sale of its US sports and lifestyle brand Volcom to Authentic Brands Group, which “purchased the intellectual property rights of Volcom, effective 1st of April 2019.” Kering said in a statement at the time that “the sale follows [its] decision in 2018 to focus on the development of its Luxury Houses, establishing its status as a leading pure player in the sector.”
2012: Qeelin – In December 2012, Kering announced its acquisition of a majority stake in Chinese fine jewelry brand Qeelin, which was founded in 2004.
2013: Christopher Kane – In January 2013, Kering acquired a 51 percent stake in the London-based designer Christopher Kane’s eponymous label, which was founded in 2006.
2013: Pomellato – In 2013, Kering acquired a majority stake in the Italian jewelry company, Pomellato, founded in 1967. The acquisition also saw Kering bring Pomellato-owned Italian charm company DoDo under its umbrella.
2013: Altuzarra – In September 2013, Kering took a minority stake in the American luxury women’s ready-to-wear and accessories brand, Altuzarra, which was founded in 2008.
2013: Tomas Maier – In November 2013, Kering and Tomas Maier (who, in addition to the lead of his eponymous label, was the Creative Director of Bottega Veneta from 2001 to 2018 ) announced the formation of a joint venture.
In June 2018, Kering revealed that Mr. Maier would leave his position as creative director of Bottega Veneta, and that it would shutter Maier’s eponymous label to an end, a move that was characterized as yet another effort by Kering to “streamline [its] portfolio into a luxury-first conglomerate.” According to a statement from Kering, “Mr. Maier remains the owner of the Tomas Maier trademark.”
2014: Ulysse Nardin – Kering acquired the 171-year old Swiss haute horlogerie brand Ulysse Nardin in 2014.
*This article was initially published in April 2018 and has been updated accordingly.