Breaking News: Ulysse-Nardin Acquired By Kering

French luxury conglomerate Kering has just announced its acquisition of 100% of the share capital of Ulysse-Nardin from the Schnyder family, beefing up its watchmaking division.

The news is just out that Ulysse-Nardin has been acquired in its entirety by Kering, owner of Gucci and Bottega Veneta. According to the Kering announcement, Ulysse-Nardin will join Kering’s watchmaking division, currently comprised of Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard.  The division will be run by Albert Bensoussan, formerly of Louis Vuitton watches, but Ulysse-Nardin willl retain existing management.  Amongst the big luxury groups Kering, which used to be known as PPR, has the smallest watchmaking business. Though Ulysse-Nardin is a mid-sized company it brings along a good deal of technical know-how and cachet.

In the announcement, François-Henri Pinault, Kering’s Chairman and CEO, highlighted Ulysse-Nardin’s “rich heritage, high profitability and solid growth prospects”. Kering also cited the brand’s “in-house expertise, particularly in regulating systems, to produce its own components” as well as its distribution network as key assets.  Last year there was talk in the industry that Kering was on the verge of buying Richard Mille, a deal that ultimately did not happen.

Best known for its Freak wristwatch, Ulysse-Nardin was been owned by the Schynder family since 1983, when the late Rolf Schnyder took over. An inimitable entrepreneur who passed away two years ago, Schnyder carved out a unique niche for the brand. Amongst other things it was the first to use silicon in a commercially available wristwatch, in the original Freak.

Schnyder’s wife, Chai, will remain on the board of directors of Ulysse-Nardin. Mrs Schnyder commented, “It will allow the brand to carry on with its international expansion and continue to innovate, while assuring the long-term future of its knowledge and expertise and the retention of its identity.”

The price of the acquisition was not revealed. Subject to regulatory approval, the deal is expected to close in the second half of 2014. Here’s the full announcement from Kering.

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