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PPR Installs Koch as New Puma CEO

Godfrey Deeny
March 14th, 2011 @ 00:20 AM - Paris

PPR, the owner of Gucci Group, has named Franz Koch to be its new CEO, replacing Jochen Zeitz, an 18 year company veteran who had fallen out of favor with the German sports brand's French owners.

Koch, 32, is a former professional field hockey player who joined Puma in 2007 as a Global Strategic Planner. One year later he was promoted to Head of Global Strategy, reporting to Zeitz. Prior to that, Koch, a German who also speaks English, French and Spanish, worked for management consultants Oliver Wyman, focusing on growth strategies and turnaround programs. Koch's appointment is effective immediately, while Zeitz has been shifted aside to become Executive Chairman.

Koch's "excellent knowledge of the company and strategic expertise will guarantee a seamless handover and continuation of the company's growth strategy. Puma is one of PPR's core brands and I am confident that Franz will bring Puma to the next level," Puma Chairman, Francois Henri Pinault said in a release Monday, March 14. Pinault is the scion of the French family whose luxury holdings include Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta.

Puma has suffered more than its most direct rivals - Adidas and Nike - in the current recession. Moreover, Zeitz's much-heralded strategy of naming avant garde U.K. designer Hussein Chalayan as Puma's creative director is now regarded as a major mistake.

Chalayan, a designer more famous for his conceptual ideas than creating clothes that are actually produced, signed the most unusual partnership in the world of fashion and style in March 2008.

At the press conference announcing that deal with Chalayan, Zeitz said: "We hope to see you again soon when we open his first fashion show with us."

However, three years after Puma took over the financial backing of his fledgling house, Chalayan still has not staged a runway sportswear collection for the brand.

Founded in 1948, Puma also owns the Tretorn brand. Puma distributes its products in 120 countries, employing over 9,000 people, managed from its headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, the same hometown as its rival Adidas.

Puma has been obsessed with fashion in recent years, especially as 80 per cent of sales are not to sports users but for street style, and thus fashion driven. Puma's Black Label collaborates with renowned design labels such as Alexander McQueen, one of Gucci Group's stable of half-dozen leading fashion houses.

PPR, the world's second largest luxury conglomerate, bought Puma in April 2007, in a surprise acquisition that valued the German company at 5.3 billion euros, or $7 billion. Since Puma had posted 2006 sales of 2.4 billion euros, PPR's takeover valued the German brand at 2.2 times its annual sales.

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