Belgium’s richest man builds up 3% stake in Burberry

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Self-made Belgian billionaire Albert Frère now holds a 3% stake in British luxury house Burberry, regulatory filings show.

Frère along with The Desmarais Family Residuary Trust of Canada are understood to have held a stake in Burberry for some time but the market was informed yesterday as their shareholding had exceeded the 3% threshold. The disclosure prompted a 5% jump in Burberry’s shares, which closed yesterday up 3.7% at £17.26.

The Desmarais Family Residuary Trust holds the family fortune of the late Paul Desmarais Sr who died in 2013 aged 86 and controls Power Corporation of Canada, the Montreal-based group which has interests in financial services companies in the US and Canada.

Frère is said to be the richest man in Belgium and in 2002 was awarded the title of Baron by King Albert II. He built an investment empire around a Swiss holding company called Pargesa which he co-founded with Paul Desmarais. He is a co-owner, together with Bernard Arnault of LVMH, of the Château Cheval Blanc winery near Bordeaux.

The news breaks shortly after Buberry’s CEO in waiting Marco Gobbetti joins the company. Gobbetti, who joins from LVMH-owned Céline, is currently heading up the business’s APAC and Middle East regions before taking up the CEO mantle from Christopher Bailey on 4 July.

Bailey had been CEO and chief creative officer and had come under pressure from the city to split his joint role. From 4 July he will assume the position of president and chief creative officer and both he and Gobbetti will report to Burberry chairman Sir John Peace.

Burberry has been considered to be a takeover target in the past. Last year US giant Coach make informal approaches to acquire it but was rebuffed