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The Rupert family is traditionally stoic in times of stress, and slow to tinker with its investments. But luxury brands conglomerate Richemont got a vigorous shake-up at board level after a poor performance in the half-year to end-September. Details are available in a Sens announcement released last Friday, but the standout development was that CEO Richard Lepeu — one of Richemont’s longest-serving executives — will not be replaced ... so to speak. Richemont executive chairman Johann Rupert argued that Lepeu, who effectively oversees three dozen "Maisons", could not be replaced.

In essence, Richemont is doing away with the CEO role, with Rupert, who remains executive chairman, contending it is nonsensical to have a CEO above the CEO of one of the biggest Maisons in the group — referring to Cartier CEO Cyrille Vigneron.

It seems the new board, along with newly established advisory boards manned by retiring executives, will function as a collective rather than an old-style leadership hierarchy. Rupert, also the chairman of investment companies Remgro and Reinet, has always favoured a board that functions in a " collegiate" manner. Richemont reckons the executive changes will strengthen the company’s ability to respond to more dynamic markets — "especially in the developing field of digital marketing and e-commerce".

Rupert suggested there are more changes to come. There is a determination to make sure Richemont remains relevant in a fast-changing market. Referring to board composition at Richemont and its operating entities, Rupert bluntly argued for "less grey [haired] men" and conceded there was not enough diversity.

"Seriously, there are too few women ... not enough Asians, not enough Americans. These are our markets." He suggested there was an irrelevance when the executives from handbag maker Chloé presented their latest ranges to "a bunch of old men".

In spite of the prevailing sales gloom in certain segments of the luxury goods market, Rupert believes sales will comeback. "Sales always do return, and we want to be there when [they do] with products that our clients want."

Geography lessons

AdvTech’s press release around the recent acquisition of Glenwood House School trumpets the company’s entry into the Western Cape market, a region in which rival Curro has already built a formidable private-schools niche. The truth, though, is that Glenwood is located in George — a long way from the lucrative "southern suburbs school belt" in Cape Town. AdvTech does already have representation in the Western Cape, or specifically Cape Town, with Abbotts and tertiary brand Varsity College.

Whether the Glenwood deal offers an opportunity for AdvTech to extend its influence in Cape Town remains to be seen — though it remains unlikely that the company will bring its flagship Crawford Colleges brand to Cape Town in the short term. There were rumours a few years ago that Curro had identified a tract of land in the city’s southern suburbs for the development of a school. But nothing has come of it. So once again, I have to wonder just how long it will be before either Curro or AdvTech makes a formal advance on Reddam House, the owner of a superbly located campus in Constantia.

Better signal

It’s apparent from the switched off share price of eMedia Holdings, owner of e.tv and 24-hour news channel eNCA, that the market is not enamoured with prospects for digital television platform OpenView HD. But, after a slow start, things are looking a little more tangible, with chairman Johnny Copelyn reporting at last week’s AGM that set-top box sales have pushed through the 500,000 mark. He believes in another 18 months sales could top 1m. The key threshold is to get set-top box sales to 750,000 to secure a proper Nielsen rating, which will allow advertisers to properly assess the channel.