This article directly stems from the research process for our European single family office database. Our list of European single family offices includes the most important family investment vehicles that invest in various areas, such as financial markets, real estate, venture capital, private equity and renewables.
How did the Wertheimer Brothers earn their fortune?
They did not earn it, but inherited from their father, Jacques Guy Wertheimer who was a long time, often conflictive business partner of fashion and perfume legend Coco Chanel, alongside his father Pierre Wertheimer. Through his initial help expanding her very successful perfume Chanel No. 5 to the US market, Wertheimer, Chanel and a third associate opened up a joint venture in which he put his capital, and Coco Chanel her brand name in a split of 70% to 10%, 20% belonging to a third business partner. Stemming from this original Chanel Perfumes company, he was able through renegotiations with Mrs Chanel, surviving expropriation through the Nazis in World War II, to eventually take over the whole Chanel brand. His grandsons Gérard and Alain Wertheimer own today each half of the company with an estimated value of 28 billion euros. In 2018 for the first time in 108 years, Chanel published his financial results, showing a highly sustainable healthy company with 1.6 billion dollars in cash, revenue of 9.6 billion dollars and a profit of 2.69 billion dollars.
How did Chanel S.A.S. develop?
The brand Chanel is most known for the work of two designers. Its founder and fashion mogul Gabrielle Coco Chanel and the recently passed German designer Karl Lagerfeld, are the main characters responsible for the outstanding success and longevity of the Chanel brand. Coco Chanel started the history of Chanel in 1909 when she opened her first boutique in Paris to sell hats. She later one ventured into sportswear for ladies of the higher classes. The products which made her already in the 1920-30s very wealthy, were the Channel suits, a dress for women, comfortable and elegant at the same time. It was a radical innovation at a time when the majority of the female clothing had its focus on beauty but the women wearing it often complained it was too uncomfortable. The other product which is world known and associated with the Chanel brand is the perfume No. 5, invented in 1920 and still today a top-seller among fragrances. Karl Lagerfeld became creative director in 1983 at a time when Chanel was seen as a brand of elderly ladies, losing out on younger generations and new segments of customers. His engagement made it possible for the Chanel brand to become a timeless brand and increased its attractivity also for younger wealthy generations. Until his death in February of this year he was responsible for the creative line of Chanel and helped to transform the luxury fashion boutique into a billion dollar holding.
Do Wertheimer Brothers have a Single Family Office?
They do and it is called Mousse Partners, and they are also owners of another investment company called Double Mousse. Mousse Partners is a New York-based Single Family Office very much occupied with managing and growing the Assets of the Wertheimer Brothers. Their investment range is wide and known although Chanel is known for its secrecy and privacy. The Single Family Office was founded in 1990 by Charles Heilbronn a longtime Chanel executive to manage and structure the fortune of Chanel. Mousse Partners owns Chanel as the most important company apart of its other smaller investments. It also makes independent investments of the acquisitions realised by Chanel, which concentrate mainly on beauty and fashion. According to Forbes, Chanel owns via its investment company Doublemousse 18% of the chain of hairdresser salons called Ulta which is based in the United States and highly profitable.
How do the Wertheimer Brothers invest?
There is no clear investment focus identifiable, although Venture Capital investments make an important part of the asset portfolio of Mousse Partners. They are invested in an Icelandic Fashion label called 66° North, originally founded to produce apt working wear for Nordic Fisherman, but since becoming a global fashion brand. According to Yahoo the single-family office also participated in a funding round of the web-shop builder application Storr, which enables people to build and run their webshop from their phones, democratizing the way to participate in e-commerce. A completely different VC investment Mousse partners realised was into the startup Everplans, which enables families to store and make available documents and their will online. The idea is to streamline and facilitate the inheritance process and respect the will of a person after his death. The broad range already visible is complemented by the strategic investment in Counter Brands LLC, an innovative skin care and beauty company based in Santa Monica, California. Mousse Partners is sought to support its international expansion. A further investment as made into an again completely different field, highlighting the diversity of Mousse Partners and their investment strategy. Lumiere is a start-up Chinese cinema developer and operator and also received strategic funding from Mousse Partners. It is planned to expand its cinema operations throughout China and globally. Also, the digitalisation of the art market is an interesting industry for Mousse Partners, as they invested in Paddle 8, a start-up operating an online auction house for mid-priced art between 1000 and 100.000 dollars. The investment strategy is innovative, risk-averse and distributed among a wide range of industries.
This article is part of our detailed report “The single family offices of Europe’s richest families“.
Picture source: Miguel Andrade