Who owns Hermès? The Dumas family holds the majority stake in Hermes

Hermes has maintained its reputation as a top luxury fashion provider for over a century. Through exceptional attention to detail, originating from its founder Thierry Hermes, the luxury brand continues to be the brand of choice for the rich and famous. 

The company is valued at close to $50 billion, making it one of the most valuable fashion houses in the world. Thanks to steady leadership and innovative business models, Hermes has largely avoided the power struggles that plague international brands. Consequently, Hermes has kept growing, with its current owners overseeing the brand’s biggest growth in decades. 

The Dumas family holds the majority stake in Hermes

The Dumas family, descendants of Thierry Hermes, owns the company’s majority stake. Cousins Pierre-Alexis and Axel Dumas are co-chairmen of the brand, with Pierre-Alexis serving as its creative director and Axel serving as CEO. 

Hermes’ ownership has been passed down the family through various generations. Founder Thierry Hermes served as CEO from the company’s establishment in 1837 to 1880. In 1880, he handed control to his son Charles-Emile and placed his other sons, Adolphe and Emile-Maurice, in leadership positions. 

Eventually, Emile-Maurice took over. He then groomed his sons-in-law, Robert Dumas, Jean-Rene Guerrand, and Francis Puech, to take over the business. In 1978, Robert Dumas’ son, Jean-Lois Dumas, became the company’s chairman. 

Under Robert’s guidance, Hermes went public in 1993, allowing non-family members to purchase shares. The Dumas family and other heirs from Thierry Hermes’ family tree own the majority shares in Hermes. 

Axel Dumas, the CEO, is the nephew of Jean Lois Dumas, and Pierre-Alexis, the creative director, is Jean-Lois’ son. 

Pierre-Alexis and Axel have guided Hermes through one of its most successful periods. Pierre-Alexis told Vogue that success comes from the company’s commitment to innovation:

“I think that this takes probably about 10 years for real, profound change to be manifested. We must have that long term vision. Because otherwise, it’s just going to be shallow. It’s not about changing for just one season, or just one year—that’s a pointless gesture. It’s about reinventing ourselves profoundly.”

LVMH tried to acquire shares in Hermes through its subsidiaries but failed

Hermes leadership has avoided internal wrangles, leading to smooth running of operations. However, the company has faced external threats, with the biggest one coming from LVMH. 

LVMH is a luxury group that owns Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Christian Dior. It wanted to add Hermes to that list, but perhaps sensing that the proud Hermes descendants would decline to sell their share, LVMH started secretly acquiring Hermes shares through subsidiaries. 

LVMH avoided scrutiny by using subsidiaries to acquire holdings below 5 percent: French laws do not require companies to disclose a stake purchase below 5 percent. In 2010, LVMH stunned the market by announcing its 14.2% cumulative stake in Hermes. 

The announcement sparked fears of a hostile takeover from LVMH. However, LVMH VP Pierre Gode denied that LVMH planned to assume control over Hermes:

“It would be folly on our part to hamper the success of this great brand. LVMH has no intention of aggressively taking control of Hermes. I make the wish that these artificial, sterile and groundless quarrels stop.”

To protect itself from a ‘hostile move’ by LVMH, Hermes set up a private holding company that owns 50.2% of Hermes shares. The company can block a family member from selling their shares. 

The Autorite des Marches Financiers, the French financial services watchdog, offered further protection to Hermes by ruling that LVMH couldn’t buy out Hermes’ minority shareholders. The ruling eliminated any chances of a hostile takeover. 

Patrick Thomas, then Hermes CEO, condemned LVMH’s underhanded tactics, saying, “If you want to seduce a beautiful woman, you don’t start by raping her from behind.” By May 2011, LVMH had a 21% stake in Hermes, which Hermes executives demanded be reduced in half. 

Bernard Puech, a Hermes executive, said: “After six months, we are the target of incessant attacks of the kind we’ve never seen in 174 years, even though LVMH says its approach to us is friendly. With friends like these, who needs enemies?”

Suits and countersuits followed as LVMH tried to absolve itself of wrongdoing. However, AMF found LVMH guilty of secretly buying shares in its rival Hermes.

A court eventually intervened and ordered LVMH to distribute its stake in Hermes. LVMH relinquished its stake in Hermes in December 2014. A statement from LVMH read:

“Hermès Executive Chairman Axel Dumas and Bernard Arnault both express their satisfaction that relations between the two groups, representatives of France’s savoir-faire, have now been restored.”

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