Bulgari Brothers, Jewelers To The Stars, Are Billionaires Thanks To Tiny LVMH Stake

More than 150 years ago, Konstantinos Voulgaris
was an itinerant Greek silversmith, traveling around
the towns of Epirus near the Albanian border
hawking his wares.
In 1884, his own grandson Sotirios had the good
sense not only to move the family business to
Rome but to employ the Latin form of his surname:
Bulgari — or Bvglari, as you’ll no doubt have seen it
spelled on billboards, perfume bottles, and of
course jewelry boxes from the hills of Greece to
Rodeo Drive.
Today, Hollywood beauties flaunt the jewelers’
bold, hand-crafted gems on red carpets. Much of
Elizabeth Taylor’s prized jewelry collection was
comprised of ostentatious Bulgari creations,
auctioned for millions by Christie’s after her death
(and $20 million worth bought back by Bulgari
themselves).
Bulgari remains a family business, of sorts:
Konstantinos’ great-great-grandsons Paolo and
Nicola are, respectively, chair and vice-chair of the
company while their nephew Francesco Trapani is
CEO.
In 2011, however, French luxury empire Moët
Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) acquired Bulgari in
an all-share deal, handing over 3.6% of the
conglomerate to the family. Last year, as LVMH’s
stock rose, the Bulgaris and nephew Trapani sold a
tiny sliver of their stake, reportedly to take care of
taxes and other expenses.
Now, Nicola and Paolo own about 2.4% of LVMH’s
share capital between them (Trapani owns far less).
Thanks to the fashion powerhouse’s surging share
price and current market cap of over $90 billion,
that 1%-or-so each has pushed the Bulgari brothers
into the billionaires’ club. Forbes’ calculations put
each brother’s net worth at close to $1.5 billion
apiece.
They’ll make their debut on the 2013 World’s
Billionaires List this coming March as individuals.
(Their entire family was listed as a group in 2001,
long before LVMH’s involvement made each man
worth 10 figures on his own.)
The two will join LVMH’s billionaire chairman and
CEO Bernard Arnault, the subject of a 2010 Forbes
cover story, on the rich list.
Of course, LVMH has benefited from its union with
the legendary jewelry house: in 2011 its profits
jumped 22%, thanks in part to the successful
integration of Bulgari as well as record Louis
Vuitton sales. Its stock is up 20% since the Bulgari
acquisition.
LVMH confirmed the Bulgari brothers’ shareholdings
but declined to comment further.

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