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Death of Hermes patriarch raises questions about company’s future

Jean-Louis Dumas, who led Hermès from 1978 to 2006, died May 1 at the age of 72, the Wall Street Journal reported. The fifth-generation leader "federated dozens of family members around the company's shareholding and managerial ranks," the article said. The family owns about 72% of the company, which has been listed on the Paris stock exchange since 1993. "Much of [the family's] stake is locked up in shareholder pacts," the Journal article said.

Yet, as the sixth generation came into power recently, observers questioned if the family would remain in control of Hermès. They believe that the issue would become less taboo after the death of Jean-Louis Dumas, who had been sick for several years. Speculation that part of the family could sell its stake, putting the company in play, has boosted its share price in recent years.


Several family members have high positions at the company, including Jean-Louis Dumas son Pierre-Alexis Duman, who is artistic director. The CEO, Patrick Thomas, is a non-family member, the report noted.

Six of the nine supervisory board members are part of the family, and several of them represent the younger sixth generation. Mr. Dumas structured Hermès to withstand attacks on the family. The partnership structure allows a special committee made up entirely of family members to scuttle a hostile takeover bid....


(Source: Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2010.)

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