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Henry Racamier, 90; Entrepreneur Revived Louis Vuitton Fortunes

April 04, 2003|From Staff and Wire Reports

Henry Racamier, 90, who built the Louis Vuitton leather goods company into one of the world's largest luxury goods groups, died Saturday of a heart attack while traveling in Sardinia. He lived in Paris.

A native of Pont-de-Roide, France, the son of an industrialist earned a business degree in Paris and founded the steel trading company Stinox. In 1943, he married Odile Vuitton, the great-granddaughter of Louis Vuitton, founder of his namesake company. But Racamier made his own career and fortune in steel from 1941 until retiring at 65 in 1977.

It was only then that the Vuitton family, whose business was in disarray after the death of Racamier's father-in-law, Gaston Vuitton, in 1970, asked him to take over the leather goods company. Racamier spent 13 years building the two-store company with $14 million annual revenue into a 130-store worldwide powerhouse with annual revenue of $1.2 billion.

To protect the company from probable takeover, he merged it with the champagne and cognac producer Moet-Hennessy into LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 1987. A year later, Racamier invited investment from French businessman Bernard Arnault, only to be ousted by Arnault from the chairmanship and the board in 1990.

After leaving Vuitton, Racamier started another luxury goods conglomerate through his family holding company, Orcofi, handling jewelry, crystal and high fashion. But he soon retired to pursue music and sailing.

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