How African Billionaire Johann Rupert Made Richemont a Global Luxury Brand
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How African Billionaire Johann Rupert Made Richemont a Global Luxury Brand

Africa’s second richest person, Johann Rupert is the Chairman of Compagnie Financière Richemont, a company that has become a global luxury brand. According to Deloitte’s 2019 report on the Global Powers of Luxury Goods, Rupert’s Richemont is the third largest luxury goods company on the planet, trailing behind juggernauts LVMH and Estée Lauder. 

Rupert’s journey to becoming a billionaire began after he created the Small Business Development Coorporation (SBDC) – a business which alone has created over 600,000 jobs for the South African workforce since its foundation, and has been responsible for helping SME start-ups and growth in the country.  

According to reports, Rupert who founded Rand Merchant Bank took over his father’s cigarette manufacturing business, Rembrandt. He later converted Rembrandt’s European assets and formed the Swiss luxury goods conglomerate, Richemont.

Over the past few decades, the South African billionaire has transformed Richemont into a powerhouse holding company for some of the world’s most prestigious luxury brands, including Cartier, Montblanc, and Dunhill. While Rupert’s brand is the desire of many, it has become necessary to examine the key strategies the billionaire employed to achieve such remarkable success.

His acquisition of established luxury brands

The South African billionaire’s key strategy in making Richemont a global luxury brand is his focus on acquiring established luxury brands with strong reputations. Richemont acquired some of the leading luxury brands in the world, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, Panerai and Montblanc. These strategic acquisitions greatly helped his brand become a global luxury brand.

In one of his quotes, Rupert said, “Trends carry on forever until they stop. I want to be around after things come to a standstill.” His determination to be around much longer can be closely linked to his recognition that the cachet and heritage of brands were essential to their long-term success. 

For example, when Richemont acquired Cartier in 1997, Rupert made a point of meeting with the brand’s designers and artisans to understand their creative processes and ensure that the brand’s traditions were upheld.

Rupert’s commitment to quality and premium products

Another important aspect of Rupert’s strategy was his commitment to quality and craftsmanship. Rupert went for brands like the much sought-after Stern Group, a leading manufacturer that supplied much of the world’s luxury watch brands with watch dials. He understood that luxury consumers were willing to pay a premium for products that were made with the highest level of care and attention to detail. Beyond his acquisition, Rupert invested heavily in developing Richemont’s manufacturing capabilities, ensuring that the company’s products were produced to the highest standards.

His willingness to adapt to change

Rupert once noted “I don’t want to start producing dressing gowns and cuff links with the Purdey name stamped on them. Making Purdey the leading gunmaker is our priority. Once we have succeeded in doing that, then we might look at some accessories, but it is a long haul.” This shows his willingness to adapt to changing consumer preferences and market conditions.

A testament to that is Rupert’s heavy investment in Richemont’s e-commerce when he saw the growing popularity of e-commerce. He acquired Yoox Net-a-Porter and watch seller Watchfinder, launching online stores for many of the company’s brands and creating a seamless online shopping experience for customers. Reports say Watchfinder and Net-a-Porter increased sales at a double-digit rate for Richemont.

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