The jeweler boss was tasked with making Cartier-owned Richmond shine

When Richemont chairman Johann Rupert first approached Nicolas Bose as chief executive of the Swiss luxury group he controls, he was turned down.

Bose, chief executive and creative director of Van Cleef & Arpels, is reluctant to change roles after a strong run at the Richmond-owned jeweler.

„When I first persuaded Nicholas to consider it a while ago, he was having so much fun growing up. [Van Cleef] He actually turned down the offer, which was great for me,” Rupert, the South African billionaire and controlling shareholder of the group, told reporters in May.

„That’s the kind of person you want, someone who doesn’t want to have all the power.”

That changed this month when the Geneva-based group announced a reshuffle of the CEO role, giving the occupier more power and oversight over all the group’s brands. Bos was named to the newly expanded position effective June 1, with current chief executive Jerome Lambert taking over as chief operating officer.

Bose, a Frenchman who is well-liked by colleagues and has spent his entire career in Richmond, works at a challenging moment for the industry. Luxury growth is slowing from a pandemic-era boom, the outlook for the key Chinese market is dim and questions linger about a long-term successor in Richmond.

Until now, most decision-making at the group – which owns fashion brands such as high-end jeweler Cartier, watchmaker Piaget and Chloé – goes through board chair Rupert, with Lambert at his side as chief executive overseeing the smaller of the group. Brands. Van Cleef and Cartier reported directly to Rupert as the group’s largest brand in terms of sales and profit and finance.

Bass has run Van Cleef & Arpels for over a decade © Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

The 73-year-old remains heavily involved in the group’s management and operations, but there is no clear successor among his three children and has yet to appoint an administrator. Many key players in luxury, from LVMH to Prada, are also grappling with questions of succession.

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The appointment of the 53-year-old Bos is less likely to give investors a hint of what a generational handover might look like in Richmond. Bass will take over some of Rupert’s day-to-day management duties, although the chairman said he has no intention of stepping back.

„The question of succession planning is not as relevant as it was a few weeks ago . . . because now you have a competent person running the board,” said Erwan Ramburg, an analyst at HSBC. , what after Rupert . . . You bought yourself some time.

Bos’s promotion was warmly welcomed by investors, with shares rising 6 percent, extending their gains to 27 percent so far this year.

„[He] Young and active, he talks the talk. People like him and he is clearly very talented,” said one investor. But they added: „Although it does not fully deal with the succession issue.”

Richmond was founded by Rupert in 1988 from a South African group started by his father Anton that spanned industries from tobacco to financial services, mining and luxury goods. The new Switzerland-based group held the family’s non-South African assets, including minority stakes in luxury brands including Cartier, Piaget and Baum & Mercier.

Cartier Men's Watch
Cartier is Richmond’s largest brand in terms of sales and profits © Hasan Zaidi/Alamy

Rupert built the group through a series of deals, including taking a controlling stake in Cartier in 1993, buying one of the world’s oldest watchmakers, Vacheron Constantin, in 1996 and taking over Van Cleef in 1999.

The group grew from a net profit of £106.5mn in its first year to €2.35bn last year and a market capitalization of SFr76.4bn ($84.2bn).

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As Boss takes on his new role, his expertise in jewelery – the group’s largest segment by sales – will be an asset. Richemont’s jewelry sales continue to grow despite industry-wide softening.

However, he will have to contend with a weak China, while sales of the group’s high-end watches slumped at the end of last year.

Richemont needs a solution for its loss-making ecommerce business Yoox Net-a-Porter, for which it is trying to find a buyer. As chief executive Cyril Vigneron nears retirement, he will eventually have to manage Cartier’s succession.

A native of Paris with a passion for art and literature, Bass joined the Cartier Foundation, a contemporary art museum in Paris founded by the group, after graduating from France’s ESSEC business school in 1992.

In his interview for admission to business school, he used the foundation as an example of companies he was interested in working for. “I was interested in companies that mixed business with culture,” he told an alumni magazine in 2016. „I think this is what really got me!”

Richemont and Bos declined to comment for this article.

Bos spent the next decade working between the foundation and Cartier, coordinating the company’s partnerships in the arts. After taking over Richmond Van Cleef, Boss moved there to help turn around the legendary but losing Parisian jewelry house.

He transitioned from marketing and communications to product development, eventually being named creative director for all collections and regional director for the Americas, overseeing the department’s largest market. In 2013, he was named chief executive, unusually retaining his creative director duties. Since 2019 he has also overseen the jewelery house.

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“Nicholas is the industry’s only CEO [to have that] Left and right brain skills in terms of creativity and being a businessman at the same time. It’s incredibly rare,” Ramburg said.

„You might be having a conversation about the company, profits or corporate structure, and then she might talk about a new high jewelry collection and the notes that inspired her,” said Briony Raymond, a jewelry designer and former Van Cleef & Arpels employee. „It’s a unique set of skills.”

Turning Van Cleef around wasn’t an overnight project. About a decade after the Richemont deal, the jeweler returned to profitability in a process that gained momentum under Bos.

Bose’s passion and knowledge of art was a perfect fit for the brand, while the push into China he oversaw helped fuel growth. The brand now has more than 30 stores in cities across the country.

„For me, the key to a perfect CEO is that the person has to be a successful executive from the marketing, customer-facing side,” Rupert said when announcing the new role. „Nicolas has proven himself in running Van Gleep and making it a true powerhouse.”

Ultimately, the hope is that Bose’s new role will bring more traditional structure and sparkle to Richmond’s upper echelon.

Ramburg said the report was „not healthy” for the key stakeholder of major brands and the chief financial officer, and „must have led to some conflict. It should be simplified . . . it’s not rocket science, it should have been that way in the first place.”

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