There is nothing we love more than a good story of people who became very wealthy thanks to someone famous or luxurious. As for brothers Alain and Gerald Wertheimer, their story involves both – via their ancestors, but they still helped take what was left and made it even more successful. The Wertheimer business has run the family business for 45 years – and does it very well for that, as evidenced by their combined net worth of $ 50 billion. The Wertheimer all in are among the wealthiest families in the world. How did they get to this incredible fortune? Well, it dates back to the late 1800s and took off thanks to the one and only Coco Chanel.
In the late 1800s, Ernest Wertheimer moved from Alsace, France, to Paris. He bought Bourjois, a theatrical make-up company that produced the very first dry red in the world. Ernest’s sons, Pierre and Paul, took over the family business in 1917 and three years later, the business was the largest and most successful cosmetics and perfume business in France. The turning point on the road to even greater success occurred when Pierre met Coco Chanel in the 1920s. They became business partners. In 1924, Pierre and Coco created Parfums Chanel when Coco Chanel came to the conclusion that it was the right time to launch its signature perfume, Chanel n ° 5, to a wider and wider customer base. Before the agreement with Wertheimer, Chanel n ° 5 was only available in the Chanel store. Coco used Pierre’s expertise in the retail trade as well as his knowledge of the American market and his financial resources. Pierre took a 70% stake in Parfums Chanel for its part in the financing and marketing of the Chanel perfume. For a 10% stake in Chanel Perfumes, Coco authorized its name to the company and did not take part in any of the commercial operations. She was, after all, a creator at heart.
However, over time, Coco was dissatisfied with the agreement it had concluded with Pierre and was trying to take back control of Parfums Chanel. She chased the Wertheimers in the mid-1930s and lost. When the Nazis descended on Paris during World War II, Chanel contacted German officials and told them that the Wertheimers, a Jewish family, possessed his perfume and as an Aryan, it was his legal right under laws which then required the ownership of all Jews. families to seize. However, the Wertheimers were a step ahead of the Nazis and the clever Coco Chanel. They had seen the Nazi warrants coming and had moved to New York in 1940. Not only that, but they handed over full legal control of Parfums Chanel to a French businessman and Christian, Felix Amiot. When the Second World War ended in favor of the Allies, Amiot gave Parfums Chanel to the Wertheimers. When Coco Chanel died in 1971, the family bought it.
This finally brings us to Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, who are Pierre’s grandsons. They are the third generation of Wertheimers to run the company, which is over 100 years old, and have run the family business for 45 years. They took over full control of the company in 1996, after the death of their father Jacques. Their wealth, although largely inherited, has increased over the decades through trade agreements and acquisitions covering retail, wine and horse racing. The brothers are individuals who rarely speak to the press. They are widely known as the quietest billionaires in the fashion industry. They live very sumptuous lifestyles in the eyes of the public.
Gerard is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Alain lives in New York and was credited with resuscitating the Chanel brand when he took control of his father’s Chanel in 1973. He was 25 years old at the time and convinced the board of directors to leave him take over the business. Alain and Gérard hired one of the most famous creative directors in the fashion industry, Karl Lagerfeld, to lead the most famous brand in the world in 1983. Alongside the brothers, Lagerfeld took Chanel, who was then at its lowest point, and transformed it into one of the most popular luxury brands in the world. In 2017, annual sales of the various Chanel product lines amounted to $ 9.62 billion. Despite this, they are two of the less famous fashion house owners. When they attend parades, they go there in a modest French-made sedan and slip into the third or fourth row without being noticed.
Alain Wertheimer, as mentioned, lives in New York in a large apartment on Fifth Avenue with his wife and children. His house is not far from Chanel’s executive offices at 57e Street. Gerard lives in a secluded French-style mansion in the Vandeuvres area in Geneva, Switzerland. The brothers also own a castle in the Loire Valley in France and seven other houses around the world. The brothers are great art collectors and own works by Picasso, Matisse and Rousseau, to name a few.