Friday, July 14, 2017

The Hunger Games, Part the Second

I'm sure you've already read about it, but to confirm -
Georges Kern has "dropped his letter" at Richemont HQ.

Unlike many resignations and appointments, the news braking this Bastille Day has taken a lot of us by surprise, including me.  But when you spool it out and look at it in its (current) entirety, the pieces do fit together rather nicely.

Courtesy of tick-talk time
So let's start at the beginning with the announcement put out earlier today from (I suspect) a very harried PR department:

Richemont announces resignation of Head of Watchmaking, Marketing and Digital

14 July 2017

Richemont regrets to announce the resignation with immediate effect of Mr Georges Kern. Mr Kern was Head of Watchmaking, Marketing and Digital. He has stepped down from the Senior Executive Committee and the Group Management Committee and will no longer be standing for election to the Board of Directors of Compagnie Financière Richemont SA at the forthcoming annual general meeting of shareholders.

Commenting on Mr Kern's decision, Mr Johann Rupert, Chairman, said:

Georges has been offered an interesting opportunity to become an entrepreneur.
He has had a very successful career at IWC Schaffhausen and we wish him well.

Richemont's watchmaking, marketing and digital activities will report to the Senior Executive Committee.

But there is, it would seem, another twist in the tale.  Later in the day it was intimated (albeit not by anyone willing to go officially on the record) that Mr. Kern would be taking control of another testosterone fueled brand, Breitling.  This reporting came from the folks at Le Temps.  Attempts to get either confirmation or denial from Mr. Kern were apparently unsuccessful as of this morning (Swiss time).

Okay, so that's the obviously knowable, but let's dig into the context.  Mr. Kern did a very good job with IWC, and I suspect that in the palace court that is Richemont HQ, there has been more than a little jockeying for position.  With the announcement of a "twin towers" approach which resulted in booting both Mr. Kern and Mr. Lambert upstairs into Richemont's newly re-jiggered corporate structure, it seemed that the one who could be the most Machiavellian would probably emerge as the CEO of the entire Richemont group.  And very often when you have two people who want the same thing, it can very rapidly become a war of attrition.
The other thing to consider is what Charles Horton Cooley termed the Looking Glass Self.  Essentially, that the way we view and value ourselves is, more often than not, a reflection of how we feel we are perceived by others.   When you have been at the forefront of a fairly successful brand, it can be a bit of a let-down to no longer be the face of that brand.   Being in charge of several brands gives you status for sure, but it is not nearly as sexy as the red carpet.  Breitling has historically been ready, willing and able to throw money around and pursue celebrity "chums".  And in fairness to Mr. Kern, he does posses a gift for the "grip and grin".
It is important to really understand that although this news is "breaking" for the rest of us, this was clearly put in motion some time ago.  From time to time impulsive decisions are made in the heat of passion, but I do not think this is one of those times.  This has clearly been building, and more than likely Mr. Kern was just looking for the best possible sortie (and that would be the French definition).

So if the reports are true, and Mr. Kern is on his way to Grenchen, then it marks an interesting step in his career.  As to the "entrepreneurial" aspect of this step, it is also unclear as to whether Mr. Kern raided his piggy bank or whether he was granted some equity in exchange for taking on the challenge.  
My only request would be that he remove the fighter jet from the Grenchen roundabout just off the highway... it's an eyesore.


No comments:

Post a Comment