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Confirmation: Georges Kern is going to Breitling as CEO and Shareholder

by Peter Chong on July 16, 2017

After lots of speculation, and yes, we know, some more solid than others, but almost all pointing towards Breitling, we now have confirmation from Mr. Georges Kern himself that that’s where he is headed. 

The saga began with the rather sudden announcement from Richemont that Georges Kern has resigned as Head of Watchmaking, Marketing and Digital. A position that he was only appointed early this year. Kern has been seen making strong changes across the entire Watchmaking spectrum within Richemont since.

 

Georges Kern, photographed in Hong Kong, September 2015. We interviewed him in a 3 part article here.

 

 

Breitling speculations

When the news broke mid-day in Asia on Friday, speculations abound that he was going to Breitling. Our own Special Correspondent, Dr. Frank Müller said minutes after receiving the Richemont announcement, “Perhaps, Breitling? The brand would fit and he is eligible to buy or get shares.”

In April, 2017, CVC Capital closed a deal to buy a majority stake in Breitling, which till then was privately owned by the Schneider family. A report carried by Bloomberg on the announcement states that CVC took a 80% stake in the company with Schneider retaining the remaining 20%. The report says that CVC paid about twice the 12 month trailing sales of Breitling, valuing the company at more than €800 million. Bloomberg also reported that Breitling’s sales was approximately CHF420 million in 2016, up from years previous. The new owners are reportedly looking to grow the brand above all in the Chinese market. Evidently, they are looking at the next generation of leadership to carry the Breitling name forward.

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The first news from Le Temps citing unnamed sources that Kern is heading for Breitling appeared late Friday, Asian time. Forbes then carried an article by industry veteran Roberta Naas speculating the same. This was sort of confirmed a few hours after publication by Kern himself who reposted the article on his Facebook page, but sans comment. This was quickly followed up a little later by yet another industry veteran journalist, Gisbert Brunner on his Instagram post. While it is widely accepted that Kern was indeed heading for Breitling, there was no firm confirmation. Until now.

 

Breitling confirmed

The Chief Editor wrote a Facebook message to Kern immediately on Friday, and was not expecting a reply, but early Sunday morning (Asian time), he did.

 

Confirmation from Georges Kern that he is indeed heading for Breitling.

 

So now here is confirmation from Georges Kern himself. In our opinion, it is a good fit, Breitling being quite similar to the IWC Kern took over in 2002, and which he built to the industry juggernaut it is today. We wish Georges Kern the very best, and look forward to seeing the Kern magic on Breitling.

 

Quo vadis, Richemont?

 

Next, the industry will be speculating on who will fill the shoes left by Kern in Richemont. Will it be the ever energetic and brilliant Jérôme Lambert? We save that for another opinion article in the near future.

 

Editorial note: The paragraph on CVC investment in Breitling is re-written at 10:16pm Singapore time, 16 July, for clarity based on feedback from comments section.

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5 Comments
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  • Riffmaster
    September 7, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Breitling will be bought from Richemont in the next 4 years. Probably we see Breitling in 2019 at SIHH in Geneva.

  • Tom
    July 18, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    Maybe Breitling can start by making a 40mm navitimers and stop making all of their core collections above 43mm. You are pilots. We get it. Now make smaller watches that most of humanity can wear. There, 20% more sales, including in the Asian market.

  • July 16, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    This sentence is wrong: “A report carried by Bloomberg immediately on the announcement states that Breitling was valued at more than €800 million, and that CVC has paid about twice that.”

    CVC bought a controlling stake at Breitling (not necessarily 100%), which values the company at EUR 800 million, which is about 2 times the annual sales of Breitling. It wouldn’t make sense for CVC to pay twice the value of Breitling, right?

  • July 16, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Love your thinking. Lambert would do them very well. Iwc has never been my cup of tea. But what JLC and now Montblanc have done are very impressive watchmaking at very reasonable prices.

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