Marc Jacobs Said to Leave Vuitton and Focus on IPO of Own Label

Marc Jacobs will leave Louis Vuitton after 16 years as artistic director of the world’s biggest luxury label to focus on an initial public offering of his own brand, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Vuitton-owner LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA wants to accelerate development of the Marc Jacobs label, which has annual sales of about $1 billion, and may pursue an IPO in about three years, said the person, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on the matter. A spokesman for Paris-based LVMH declined to comment.

Jacobs’s move will provide a double boost for LVMH, allowing him to focus solely on the growth of his label while a new creative director works to inspire a revival at Vuitton, according to Luca Solca, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas. Sales at Vuitton have slowed as consumers tire of Vuitton’s ubiquitous, logoed designs and sought out more exclusive items.

“While Marc has done a lot for LV in 16 years at the helm, it is only natural that new creative talent will provide novelty,” Solca wrote in an e-mail.

At Vuitton, which held its spring-summer collection today, 50-year-old Jacobs helped transform the trunkmaker into the world’s biggest luxury brand with sales of more than 7 billion euros ($9.5 billion). He added ready-to-wear and collaborated with artists including Stephen Sprouse and Kanye West.

LVMH, the world’s largest luxury-goods maker, in April posted its weakest fashion and leather-goods sales growth since 2009. Yves Carcelle, who worked with Jacobs since he joined Vuitton, was replaced as the label’s CEO last year.

Black Dresses

LVMH fell 2.2 percent to 144.75 euros in Paris trading today, trimming the stock’s annual increase to 4.3 percent.

Jacobs’s women’s collection for Vuitton, shown today at the Louvre, was funereal, with models wearing black dresses and feathered headgear. Referring to his long-term business partner and LVMH’s chairman, the designer signed off the program notes: “For Robert Duffy and Bernard Arnault. All my love, always.”

The American designer founded his namesake brand in 1984 and LVMH invested in it in 1997 when he joined Vuitton. Marc Jacobs, which includes diffusion line Marc by Marc Jacobs, sells men’s and women’s clothing, leather goods, accessories and fragrances. LVMH does not break out results by brand.

While Marc Jacobs is one of LVMH’s best-performing brands, spinning it off in an IPO while it is still growing would be “a lesser evil” than holding on to it against the wishes of its designer and seeing sales plummet, if reports of a share sale are true, said Antoine Belge, analyst at HSBC in Paris.

Michael Kors

By pursuing an IPO, Marc Jacobs would follow Michael Kors Holding Ltd., which raised $944 million in a 2011 sale. That company was worth $15.4 billion at yesterday’s closing share price in New York.

Jacobs’s departure comes as Arnault’s daughter Delphine arrives at Vuitton from Christian Dior Couture. Delphine Arnault, who joined last month, has been tasked with overseeing all product-related activities and helping restore Vuitton’s appeal, reporting to new CEO Michael Burke.

Former Balenciaga designer Nicholas Ghesquiere has been tipped as Jacobs’s successor, according to the New York Times. The designer left the Kering SA-owned brand last year after 15 years at the Paris-based label.

“I take pleasure from things for exactly what they are, reveling in the pure adornment of beauty for beauty’s sake,” Jacobs said in the Vuitton show’s program notes today. “Connecting with something on a superficial level is as honest as connecting with it on an intellectual level.”

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