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DJ LVMH Tells Tiffany Staff to Return to Office Starting March 1

· 02/05/2021 09:22
By Suzanne Kapner

A month after acquiring Tiffany & Co., LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE is bringing employees back to the office.

The French luxury goods giant told employees at the U.S. jeweler to return to the office two days a week beginning March 1, according to people familiar with the situation. "It's critical at this time of change that we adopt a hybrid approach to onsite-remote working," LVMH told employees in a memo this week.

Tiffany will join a small list of large New York companies that have required employees to return to the office, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. In Houston, Shell Oil Co. and some other energy companies brought back workers as early as May, only to send them home again amid coronavirus outbreaks.

A spokeswoman for Tiffany had no immediate comment.

Some companies that had hoped to bring employees back this spring are moving that target to late summer and beyond as Covid-19 case counts remain elevated. About 14% of New York City workers have returned, according to data from Kastle Systems, a security firm that has been tracking access-card swipes at offices.

The 7-day average of the percent of New York City Covid-19 tests that come back positive is 5%, according to state data, down from a recent high of 6.4% in early January. The World Health Organization recommends that positivity rates stay below 5% for at least two weeks before easing shutdown restrictions.

LVMH's acquisition of Tiffany closed on Jan. 7, after a tumultuous few months in which it tried to back out of the deal. It accused Tiffany executives of mismanaging the company during the pandemic and fought to renegotiate the price, prompting both companies to sue each other. In the end, LVMH bought Tiffany for $15.8 billion, a 2.6% discount from the original price.

Now, LVMH, led by CEO Bernard Arnault, must revive Tiffany at a time when it has been deprived of crucial tourist spending and the broader industry is still reeling from the damage wrought by the pandemic. LVMH hopes that having people in the office will speed up the integration, one of the people familiar with the situation said.

In early January, LVMH installed new leadership at Tiffany. LVMH executive Anthony Ledru returned to Tiffany, where he previously oversaw North American operations, as chief executive. Mr. Arnault's son Alexandre Arnault was named executive vice president of product and communications.

The back-to-work edict is in keeping with LVMH's policies for its other companies, which include Louis Vuitton and Dior, and its staff in France. The two-day a week hybrid schedule has been common in France since the government reopened offices after a mid-December lockdown.

Some workers are eager to return to work after nearly a year of at-home confinement, according to one of the people familiar with the situation. But others are struggling with child-care issues and some don't feel comfortable taking public transportation until vaccines are more widely available, this person said. LVMH is taking those considerations and the safety of staff into account as it rolls out the hybrid policy, according to the memo.

Tiffany had more than 14,000 employees as of December, including staff at its retail stores around the world. As of January 2020, about 5,000 of its employees were in the U.S.

--Chip Cutter contributed to this article.

Write to Suzanne Kapner at Suzanne.Kapner@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 05, 2021 09:22 ET (14:22 GMT)

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