Alain and Gerard Wertheimer
Ages: 62, 60. Net worth: $7.5 billion.
Born in France, Alain and Gerard Wertheimer inherited the luxury brand company Chanel, which was co-founded by their grandfather Pierre.Pierre Wertheimer (January 8, 1888 – April 24, 1965) was a French businessman.In October 1910, Pierre Wertheimer married Germaine Revel, a daughter of a stockbroker and a member of the Lazard family of investment bankers.In 1924, Pierre Wertheimer and his brother Paul became Coco Chanel's partners in the House of Chanel perfume business
Today Alain, the elder of his grandsons, is the chairman of the company and resides in New York. Gerard chairs Chanel’s watch division and lives in Switzerland.
Alain has presided over the acquisition of several non-Chanel brands, including Eres Lingerie and beachwear, Tanner Krolle saddles and leather goods, and Holland & Holland, a British gunsmith.Based in France, the Wertheimer brothers own French vineyards like Rauzan-Segla in Margaux, France and Chateau Canon in Saint-Emilion, both of which have won rave reviews from oenophiles. Both brothers are enthusiastic equestrians who also inherited and operate an important Thoroughbred horse racing stable they call La Presle Farm or Wertheimer farm for racing in the United States and is known as Wertheimer et Frère partnership in France.
Very little is known about Chanel’s owners, who will only speak to the press to further their wine and equestrian interests, but according to The New York Times they live “like Old World aristocrats,” indulging their passions for horse racing, shooting, fine wines and art collecting. They own vineyards in Margaux and Saint-Emillon; horses that have won the French Derby, the Breeders’ Cup and Royal Ascot, and an art collection that includes pieces by Picasso and Matisse.
Going into the 1990s, in fact, Chanel was considered a global leader in the fragrance industry and a top innovator in fragrance advertising and marketing. Chanel continued to spend more on advertising than almost any other perfume company and, as a result, was reaping the fattest profit margins in the industry. In addition, the company had continued to expand into new product lines, including Chanel watches retailing for as much as $7,000; additions to its popular shoe line; and other high-priced clothes, cosmetics, and accessories.
The Wertheimers would have been wealthy without their Chanel business. However, Chanel's success in the 1980s was credited with boosting the Wertheimer family's wealth to a new level, and by the late 1990s the Wertheimer family's fortune was estimated to top $5 billion. Alain Wertheimer moved his offices to New York in the late 1980s, reflecting Chanel's emphasis on the U.S. market. Although sales of high-end goods were hurt by the global recession of the early 1990s, demand began recovering in the mid-1990s and Chanel continued to expand its boutique chain and product line.
Wertheimer remained chairman of the company while Françoise Montenay, the company's CEO and president, was charged with bringing it into the next century. In the 1990s Chanel began expanding its holdings, acquiring Lemarié, one of the most renowned feather and flower crafts houses for the Parisian fashion industry. The company continued in this trend with the acquisition of milliner A. Michel et Cie. and embroidery house Lesage. Chanel was rumored to be interested in acquiring another famed supplier to the haute couture set, boot- and shoemaker Massaro.
In 1996, Chanel acquired exclusive gun maker Holland & Holland. The company's attempt to extend that brand name to a wider range of fashions met with a lukewarm reception, forcing Chanel to scale back and realign Holland & Holland to its original concept. A more promising acquisition came in 1997, when Chanel bought high-end swimsuit maker Eres. In 2001, the company acquired a stake in up-and-coming watchmaker Bell & Ross.
Chanel continued to expand its retail holdings at the beginning of the century. In 2001 the company's U.S. subsidiary launched a new retail concept, featuring only accessories bearing the Chanel name. In July 2002 the company rolled out a new jewelry and watch flagship store on New York's Madison Avenue, and expected to build up these sales with the expansion of its network of independent retailers. Shortly after, the company opened a new, 1,500-square-foot handbag and shoe flagship store next door to its jewelry and watch store in New York, bringing the total number of Chanel stores in the United States to 25. The company also targeted the Far East, opening a new 2,400-square-foot boutique in Hong Kong, and paying nearly $50 million to acquire a building in Japan's Ginza shopping district. After 80 years, the Chanel name continued to attract customers from around the world.
Principal Subsidiaries: Chanel Inc. (USA); Chanel KK (Japan); Chanel Hong Kong; Paraffection.