By Dominique Vidalon and Bate Felix
PARIS (Reuters) – Remy Cointreau <RCOP.PA> Chief Executive Valerie Chapoulaud-Floquet, the architect of its push towards higher-priced spirits to drive profit margins, will step down by the end of 2019 for personal reasons, the company said.
The group’s share price has more than doubled since the luxury sector specialist took over in September 2014 with a strategy focused on selling spirits priced at $50 or more a bottle.
Chapoulaud-Floquet, 56, will continue to exercise her mandate until the arrival of her successor, the maker of Remy Martin cognac and Cointreau liqueur said.
Remy Cointreau did not say when a new chief executive would be appointed. It was not immediately clear why Chapoulaud-Floquet left, but the company said it was not for health reasons.
Shares in the company, whose market valuation is closer to that of luxury goods companies than peers in the spirits sector, were down 1.2% in morning trade following the surprise announcement.
“She has done an impressive job at Remy, leading the company’s strategic evolution towards a niche super premium business,” Jefferies analysts said.
“Given her strong leadership, we believe her resignation will be taken negatively by the market, until an appropriate successor is appointed.”
Chapoulaud-Floquet joined Remy Cointreau just as the group was grappling with falling cognac sales in China following the Chinese government’s 2012 crackdown on corruption and conspicuous consumption.
Her strategy, which differed from that of rivals such as Pernod Ricard <PERP.PA> which launched less expensive brands in the Chinese market to cope with the downturn, has benefited from an upturn in Chinese consumption in recent years.
Remy’s Louis XIII luxury cognac – which sells for over $3,000 a bottle – has been in demand in China but has also benefited from growing demand from rich consumers elsewhere, especially in the United States.
Chapoulaud-Floquet said in the same statement she was comfortable leaving, “as the group’s results, foundations, teams and strategic vision allow it to look to the future with optimism, ambition and success”.
Last month the group handed investors a special dividend payout after reporting a stronger-than-expected 14% rise in annual operating profit.
It also reiterated it expected high-end spirits to grow to 60-65% of its sales over the medium term from 53% at present.
Before joining Remy Cointreau, Chapoulaud-Floquet spent 24 years at cosmetics giant L’Oreal <OREP.PA> where she held various directorships in Asia, Europe and the United States.
After L’Oreal, she joined luxury leather and luggage group Louis Vuitton <LVMH.PA> in 2008, where she rose to the position of president and CEO of the Americas before leaving for Remy.
“She is 56 years old, so perhaps she has plans to take another job elsewhere,” Liberum analysts said in a note.
(Reporting by Bate Felix; editing by Michel Rose, Dominique Vidalon and Jan Harvey)