Who Owns Chanel?
Chanel was founded by the inspiring namesake of the brand, Coco Chanel in 1909, but who owns Chanel today in the 21st century? Unlike other prominent fashion houses, Chanel has escaped ownership by Kering, a group that owns Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent. And they have also escaped ownership from LVMH, who own Dior, Fendi and of course Louis Vuitton.
Compared to a brand like Gucci, Chanel has had a much more stable chronology. Instead, it has found itself in the reliable hands of a French family — but not with the last name Chanel…
Read on to discover who owns Chanel now, and also a timeline of Chanel’s ownership — from its early beginnings in the Flapper scene of pre-war Paris to the global fashion powerhouse that it is today.
1909: Who started Chanel?
The history of Chanel begins in the bustling streets of pre-war Paris. On rue Cambon, the first independent Chanel shop was opened. It was originally financed by Chanel’s lover, Boy Capel, but the popularity of her designs allowed her to remain financially independent.
1922: Horses and perfumes
The clientele of Chanel included a mix of high-profile women, many of whom happened to be wives or mistresses of men who were involved in racing. In 1922 she attended a racing event at which Chanel met Pierre Wertheimer—a racehorse owner. Pierre had recently inherited a beauty and perfumery company known as Bourjois. And as Chanel had recently launched her iconic No.5 perfume, they entered into a partnership where Pierre had majority ownership of 70% in the new company ‘Parfums Chanel’. Théophile Bader who introduced Chanel and Wertheimer took a 20% share, leaving Chanel with a mere 10%.
Chanel No.5 soon became extremely popular, and Chanel began to regret the ownership ratio, as Pierre was greatly profiting from her name and popularity. Chanel attempted to amend the original contract terms but was unsuccessful.
1941: Wars and controversy
As the second world war dominated Europe, and as a Jewish man, Pierre Wertheimer fled France for America. Coco Chanel took advantage of the situation and appealed to the Nazi party for ownership of Parfums Chanel to be returned to her. At the time, extremely anti-Semitic regulations stated that Jewish owned businesses should be taken over by a so-called ‘Aryan’ individual.
Wertheimer had foreseen this and transferred control of Parfums Chanel to a French friend, which again blocked Chanel from securing full ownership of her No. 5 perfume. Eventually, Chanel also had to flee France for Switzerland, as rumours about her involvement with Germany spread.
1953: Rekindling the Chanel brand
After the war, Chanel returned to France and re-opened her atelier, but she needed capital to fund the process of reestablishing the Chanel brand. She turned to Pierre Wertheimer again for financial guidance and help. As part of the agreement, Pierre financed Chanel’s return to the fashion scene, but in return, he now had commercial rights to all product collections created by Chanel.
Despite her dependence on Wertheimer, many records state that Chanel always remained bitter about his involvement with what she perceived as her brand alone. This arrangement never stifled her creativity, however, as she went on to design a repertoire of incredibly iconic products. The 2.55 shoulder bag, created by Chanel in 1955, is one of the most iconic handbags ever created and vintage Chanel bags are incredibly sought after on the secondhand market.
1965: The next Wertheimer
In 1965 Pierre Wertheimer died and his son Jacques took over control of the family’s majority ownership of the Parfums Chanel and commercial rights to all other Chanel products.
1970s: A succession of pivotal moments…
Chanel passed away in 1971, so who owned Chanel after Coco died? Controlling interest of the brand was handed to close confidants of Chanel: Jean Cazaubon, Philippe Guibourgé and Yvonne Dudel. But eventually, Jacques Wertheimer bought the controlling interest, and the Chanel brand fell completely into the hands of the Wertheimer family.
The Wertheimer family have always been closely linked to horse racing and breeding, and it soon became obvious that Jacques had minimal interest in the Chanel brand. His sons, Alain and Gerard, then took control of the company.
The Wertheimer brothers were responsible for appointing Karl Lagerfeld as Chanel’s new creative director. It’s a move that has always been linked to the revival of the Chanel brand, and a direct link to its subsequent success.
The present: Who owns Chanel today?
Chanel is currently still owned by the two brothers Alain and Gerard Wertheimer. The elusive brothers are rarely seen or heard from with the public sphere—turning down interviews and limiting their public presence. And unlike their father, Jacques Wertheimer, both have an active role within the control of the Chanel brand.