The impressive phenomenon of successful successions from fathers to sons for over 120 years cannot go unnoticed in the world of family business. With the fourth generation now in charge, the Mouawad family’s history naturally stands out. The most recent succession has attracted international attention for when Fred and Pascal Mouawad took over the business from their father in 2010, the family business entered an interesting new era, much as it did with every new family generation over its century of existance.
Daoud Mouawad, was but a young man when he made his way to the new world in a passenger sailboat in 1860 leaving behind him his homeland Lebanon. Many shared his dream of the land of opportunities, yet when he arrived in the United States, Daoud felt compelled to go even further. It was only when the he arrived in Mexico that he found what he was looking for: he started his apprenticeship as a watchmaker, goldsmith and jeweller and became refined in the craft thereby laying the founding stones of what was to become the Mouawad family business. When 30 years later, in 1890, Daoud went back to Lebanon, he started his own workshop in Beirut where he focused on watch and jewellery repairs and also pursued his passion of creating intricate clocks that were ordered by wealthy clients.
It was not long before the second Mouawad generation came into the family business: Daoud’s son Fayez Mouawad grew as fond of the jewellery trade as his father was and soon learned the craft and joined the business. He brought on board the innovative ideas and combined the passions that he and his father shared for jewellery and watch making. He started decorating watches with jewels to the great delight of the high-end customers of the family business. Much like his father, Fayez soon felt his hometown becoming too small for his own ambition and ventured out towards a more challenging geography: In 1950, he travelled to Saudi Arabia. It would become a defining move in the business’ success story. Fayez was by far the only fine jeweller in the Kingdom and made himself well-known to royalty and high society by importing watches from Piaget, Baume & Mercier, Longines, Patek Philippe, and Rolex aside producing his own unique pieces.
‘Like father like son!’ applied also for the third Mouawad generation: Fayez’s son Robert soon aspired to the greatness his father had shown in their trade. After first choosing to study medicine in Paris, Robert was soon called back to Saudi by the family business. The move turned out to be fateful, as Robert demonstrated a rather unique skill level when it came to the craft and soon became the head of the company. Like all the previous generations of Mouawad men, Robert soon felt the need to explore new territory, and in the early 1970s he moved from the original jewellery salon in Jeddah to establishing headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
In 1972, Robert started to combine the jewellery trade with the centuries old Swiss tradition of horology and combined his own name and Geneva into the brand Robergé. At the same time Robert entered the jewellery auction scene and achieved record diamond prices. In 2001 the Mouawad family enabled the largest diamond exhibit in the world at the Natural History Museum in Paris, France. Robert’s thirst for discovering new markets and activities led to the company’s expansion and recognition in Europe, Asia, and North America. During his tenure as a CEO a number of different organisations were born like the Robert Mouawad Real Estate Group and The Robert Mouawad Private Museum in Beirut, Lebanon. Robert Mouawad received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA).
In November 2010, it was announced that Robert Mouawad had handed over the reigns of the family business to his two sons Fred and Pascal and thereby officially acknowledged the fourth family generation in charge of the Mouawad’s pursuit of perfection.
Both Fred and Pascal have been working with their father for over ten years and bring in different backgrounds and assets to the business: Fred Mouawad attended the GIA where after he worked in the family business from 1991 to 1993 only to continue his education at Harvard Business School somewhat later. Calling himself a serial entrepreneur and showing a clear family trait, Fred also pursued his own ventures by establishing Synergia One, a portfolio of companies that operates in over 12 countries and across several industries. Whichever way his ventures took him, he always played a key role in the family business. He is the mind behind the two jewellery retail industry magazines INSTORE and INDESIGN and has established a high profile trade fair called The SMART Jewellery Show.
Pascal Mouawad, with his own unique innovation, brought a whole new clientele to the business. Having pursued his education in Los Angeles, he developed a strong network on the west coast. He continued to graduate from GIA like his brother and added an MBA later on. In 1999 Pascal moved to New York now fully embracing his role in the family business. In 2006 his west coast connections drew him back and he relocated the company’s offices to Los Angeles, making a crucial strategic step. With the move, Pascal had made possible the access to new-age royalty – the Hollywood stars. Collaboration with superstars and models (e.g. Heidi Klum, Nicole Richie, Kim Kardashian and Jessica Simpson) that also designed their own lines under the Mouawad tutelage, has given the family business a unique edge in the industry, as has its collaboration with the Victoria Secret brand.
While this generation’s Mouawads set their sails towards new territories as their predecessors have, and maybe a next Mouawad generation is getting ready to join in, the jewellery craft remains at the heart of this family business and will hopefully continue adding to its history of brilliance.
Interview with Fred Mouawad
As a fourth generation, where do you see the greatest challenges and opportunities in continuing the family legacy?
First of all I would like to say that it is an immense privilege and at the same time a great responsibility taking over the leadership of the family business. Mouawad is a group with a prestigious reputation and 120 years of success behind it. Our challenge is now to continue the brand journey and chart a direction into the future while continuing to build upon the founding blocks of our past. In other words it’s all about truly understanding our heritage, our DNA, and figuring how best to write the history of the company going into the future. It’s all about adhering to our core principles of integrity, passion, innovation, and of a genuine care for customers within the actual and future context we live in. To execute on our strategy we will need to surround ourselves with very talented people.
How does Synergia One add to the Mouawad Group legacy? Is there collaboration between the two groups?
Synergia One is a group of companies that I founded myself prior to being handed over the responsibility of managing Mouawad. It’s a collection of businesses that I built from scratch.
Under GFA for example we built 9 food service brands with 220 outlets in 10 countries. My passion is in identifying opportunities, crafting a strategy, and aligning resources towards execution. That’s why I consider myself a serial entrepreneur. Now that I am also responsible with Pascal in overseeing the jewelry business, I am leveraging my experience and part of my existing management team and capabilities to support the family business. I am in fact blessed having the experience I acquired building a variety of businesses and putting that experience to use in the family business.
Who are the competitors of the ‘INSTORE’ and ‘INDESIGN’? And are there any plans for more publications of the kind in the future?
Next year we are celebrating Instore’s 10th anniversary. I never thought we would reach a leading position in the USA jewelry trade publishing sector. When we started we were competing against five other publications. Three of them had been around for over 100 years. With our focus on providing management advice to jewelry store owners we managed to carve ourselves a niche that led to a very strong readership and loyalty for our magazine. With the media landscape changing and the economic turmoil of the last three years all our competitors went out of business except for one and we are today the market leaders in total pages. This success would not have been possible if I was not fortunate enough to be working with some of the most talented people in our industry.
Will we see a version of ‘The SMART Jewellery Show’ in the Middle East in the near future?
The Smart Jewelry Show is a trade to trade magazine. We don’t provide access to the public only to professional jewellers. If there is a demand for such trade shows in the region we will consider launching it.
What are the overall plans for the group and is there another family generation getting ready to join the family business?
Our future plans include making the brand more accessible and attainable and yet keeping it aspirational. We plan to achieve that goal by introducing what we call boutique collections. It’s jewelry at lower price points using smaller high quality gemstones and our uncompromising high quality craftsmanship.
Future family members are still being groomed. I personally have three children that are still at school and we will see if one day in the future they join the family business. What is certain is that we view keeping the business private in the hands of our family members as an advantage. It allows us to focus on our customers without the external pressure of shareholders and analysts.
Interview with Pascal Mouwad
What would you say are the family traits and characteristics that have survived the generations and that you still recognise in how the family does business today?
First, and foremost, we all have a huge passion for beautiful jewellery and gemstones. This, matched with our creative and manufacturing capabilities, which have been passed on from father to son for the 120 years of our lineage, allow us to create unique, high quality pieces, which have won a place in people’s hearts around the world.
Did the move from Europe to the U.S. change the growth dynamics of the Mouawad Group?
The expansion in the U.S. gave us the possibility to reach new customers, increase our sales and engage in strategic marketing initiatives. It was our father, Robert Mouawad, who expanded the company internationally and established a presence in North America. In 2006 I then moved our offices from New York to Los Angeles to develop links with Hollywood celebrity clients.
Was there any criticism for attaching the Mouawad name to Hollywood stars after being rather exclusively focused on royalty?
Not at all. Hollywood stars are considered modern day royalty, and we have only had positive feedback since they started wearing Mouawad. Not only have our pieces been worn and loved by screen icons like Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman, but we have also been lucky enough to collaborate on diffusion lines with the likes of Heidi Klum.
How did the idea of collaboration with Victoria’s Secrets begin and has it led to the expansion of strategic horizons?
Our partnership with Victoria’s Secret began in the year 2000. Since then, at the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show, the most famous models in the world have been adorned with Mouawad jewellery. Last November, for example, on the runway in Los Angeles, along with the stunning lingerie, models wore items from the Mouawad “Masterpiece Collection”. Moreover for six years since year 2000, Mouawad was commissioned to design and create the multi-million dollars Fantasy piece. One of them was verified by Guinness World Records as the most expensive in the world with a value of USD 11 million.
After Dubai, are there further expansion plans into the Middle East and Asia?
Yes, the opening of the Mouawad store at The Dubai Mall is just the beginning for us. Our aim is to expand the brand further in the Gulf and to increase our distribution across the Middle East region. Over the next five years, up to half of our planned new store openings will be in the region. In 2011 we are opening three new stores in Beirut, we will refurbish our outlets in Riyadh and Jeddah, we are looking at a location in Abu Dhabi and we may open a second location in Dubai.
We are also looking to expand into both Asian and European markets.