French global luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE (EPA: MC) agreed to acquire 80% of the shares of German luggage and leather goods maker Rimowa for 640 million euros ($716 million).

Rimowa, headquartered in Cologne, and founded in 1898 by Paul Morszeck, is led and owned by its founding family, enjoying continuous growth since 1982 under the chairmanship of Dieter Morszeck, the founder’s grandson, who will maintain his leadership functions while continuing to hold a minority stake in the business.

The deal is expected to close in January 2017, subject to the approval of the competition authorities. Rimowa will then become the first German maison of the LVMH Group, and Alexandre Arnault will be appointed co-CEO of Rimowa.

Rimowa has become one of the quintessential houses for innovative, high-quality luggage over the course of the twentieth century. The business has built its reputation designing lightweight and easy to use luggage and Rimowa suitcases today serve as the industry benchmark for German quality. Rimowa products are now distributed in 65 countries, through nearly 150 stores via licensees and a network of specialized partners, with a turnover expected to exceed 400 million euros at the end of 2016.

Rimowa, with 3,000 employees worldwide, provides integrated design and product development in Germany along with the majority of manufacturing, combining artisanal craftsmanship with precision technology.

“Over the past two years I have had the opportunity to establish close ties with the Arnault family, and in particular with Alexandre,” said Dieter Morszeck. “Alexandre and I have discussed at length the attractive development prospects available to us and the common values that we share. I am delighted that he is joining Rimowa and I have full confidence in his ability to accelerate the development of the business by my side.”

“Rimowa is a superb business which I have followed as a loyal customer for many years. Rimowa has revolutionized the luggage industry for over a century, its suitcases are renowned for their unique performance, quality and design. I am honored to join Rimowa and to be working alongside Dieter,” said Alexandre Arnault.

“Rimowa is a brand with a unique heritage. We share with Dieter Morszeck the same passion for innovation and a common desire to offer very high-quality products derived from a European tradition of craftsmanship. What’s more, it brings me great pleasure that Rimowa will be the first German house to join the LVMH Group. Germany is recognized all over the world for the vitality of its family businesses and for the quality of their products,” added LVMH chairman and chief executive Bernard Arnault.

Since its creation by Paul Morszeck, innovation has been at the heart of Rimowa’s strategy. In 1937, his son Richard launched the first aluminum suitcase available on the market. The aluminum structure comprising parallel grooves makes the luggage instantly recognizable and has played its part in building the reputation of Rimowa among a sophisticated international clientele. His son Dieter designed the first waterproof metal case in 1976, since which time Rimowa suitcases have become the travelling companion of choice for the greatest filmmakers, photographers and journalists.

Rimowa revolutionized the industry when it launched the first polycarbonate suitcase in 2000. A patented system of ball bearings ensures optimum stability. Since 2014, Rimowa has also been developing its “Bossa Nova” range which combines lightweight polycarbonate with the elegance of leather. This suitcase is a tribute to the English artist and botanist Margaret Mee who devoted her life to painting and protecting plants from the Amazon. Rimowa donates a portion of its sales to the Association Saúde e Alegria which supports social projects in the Amazon.

More recently, in partnership with Lufthansa, the company launched the Rimowa Electronic Tag. This innovative feature simplifies baggage check-in by matching, with the use of a smartphone, the boarding card with a bluetooth electronic tag integrated only within Rimowa suitcases.

For over 60 years, Rimowa suitcases have been inspired by the remarkable story of commercial aviation and the fuselage of the first metallic plane, the Junkers F-13. Thanks to the financial support of Rimowa, a seven year project made it possible to reconstruct this legendary aircraft. The inaugural flight took place on September 15, 2016, nearly a century after its first commercial use in 1919. This revival embodies the exceptional heritage of the house.

Photo (L-R): Alexandre Arnault of LVMH, Dieter Morszeck, Chairman of Rimowa, and Bernard Arnault, Chairman & CEO of LVMH.

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