CEO Corner: A Sparkling Conversation With Veuve Clicquot’s Jean-Marc Gallot

Jean-Marc GallotPhoto Credit: Boby Allin

For our inaugural CEO Corner column — a place where we speak to the world’s most powerful CEOs — we decided to highlight Jean-Marc Gallot, the CEO of Veuve Clicquot champagne, which is owned by luxury powerhouse LVMH. A graduate of Rouen Business School, Gallot joined LVMH in 2003 as Chief Executive Officer of Louis Vuitton North America. In 2005, he was promoted President and CEO of the North America zone before taking over the position of President of Louis Vuitton Europe from 2006-2009. After holding roles as President of Ruinart (2009-2011), Executive Vice President of commercial activities at Louis Vuitton (2011-2012), Managing Director of Fendi (2012-2014), and Executive Vice President of Moët Hennessy, Gallot was promoted to CEO of Veuve Clicquot where he has held the position since 2014. Prior to joining LVMH, Gallot held various senior management roles for Cartier, Christofle and Ferragamo. Now he heads up the iconic champagne house, which was founded in Reims in 1772 and this, year, celebrates its 250th anniversary. In 1805, Madame Clicquot took the reins of the House and became one of the first businesswomen of modern times, acquiring the epithet “la grande dame of Champagne.” Her iconic cuvée, Brut Carte Jaune, in the maison’s signature sunny yellow, symbolizes the values of audacity and optimism. Here, we spoke to Gallot aboard Veuve’s ultra-VIP 250th year celebration aboard another icon — the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

Veuve Clicquot Photo Credit: Boby Allin

Tell me how you decided to celebrate your brand’s 250th anniversary with A VIP trip aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, and what else you’re doing to celebrate this huge moment.

First, I’m a strong believer that anniversary of companies is of course important for the company, but for the consumer sometimes it’s not that much of an interest. So, I challenged a lot my team, in order to be super creative, to have great initiative for this anniversary. Actually, two years ago I discovered that the first bottles that we sold outside of the US, outside of France, sorry, was shipped to Italy to Venice, so, we shipped some bottles to Venice in 1772, forty bottles. So, from this idea, I thought it would be great 250 years later to have this little expedition to Italy, but instead of doing it as it was by carrier or whatever carriage, we decided to use this incredible train to create a one-of-a-kind experience, to host people to have this experience between France, not Paris, but France to Venice. So, we went to our cousins from Belmond, because Belmond is owned as well by LVMH, and to the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express. We told them we would like to build a special trip from France to Venice. We have been working like crazy for the last 18 months to make it happen and here we go.

You must have a lot of other big surprises in store for the 250th?

Well, this one is already quite a big one, I can tell you it’s a lot of work to do something like that, because every single detail here has been worked out, everything is—“Hello, Good morning”— and it’s a lot of work. But, also talking about the 250th anniversary, we have just launched a worldwide advertising campaign with the song of The Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine,” we love this campaign. We are launching four iconic products from Maison Veuve Clicquot, that we used to do, that we have redone with the label of being sustainable and circular. So, we have the fridge which is a mini fridge in which we have the bottle that you keep for two hours fresh, we have the ice jacket, we have the ice box which is a box which when it opens becomes an ice bucket, and we have, of course, the arrow that, you know, where you can write the special city, I’m sure you have seen some. So, these are for the product and last but not least, we are putting together an incredible exhibition about 250 years of culture Clicquot, and this exhibition will start in Japan in June 15th for three weeks and we will be in Los Angeles at the end of the year, end of October beginning of November. With Veuve Clicquot everything is possible, you know. We are all about being optimists, audacity, and so we love it, it’s the spirit of the Maison Clicquot. Madame Clicquot was so audacious and determined as a strong woman that the spirit that we all have is always to be able to create some surprise, to dream big, bright, and beautiful which is the mission of the Maison. For all of this, we really are always looking for the next step.

Veuve Clicquot Photo Credit: Boby Allin

I feel like two benchmarks of the brand are one, innovation and two, real strong female empowerment. You can’t help but walk into those cellars and feel really inspired as a woman by somebody who created something so huge on her own.

Absolutely. Actually, [we have a program that] unfortunately is not in the US, and is what we call the “Bold Program”, which for the last 50 years have been to recognize very successful and inspiring female entrepreneurs. We recognize it in 27 countries in the world. One day it will happen in the US because we really want to share that it’s so important to keep up alive the spirit of Madame Clicquot, for women who want to become entrepreneurs and for which we have made a parameter worldwide. We see that there is some social and societal barriers, some bias, which means that it seems to be more difficult for a woman to be an entrepreneur than for a man.

Jean Marc GallotPhoto Credit: Veuve Clicquot

While I have you, I want to talk about the passing of time, what the passing of time means to you given that it’s 250 years. Why is time such a luxury?

Well, first, the world of champagne it’s the world of time, you have to take the right time to do the right thing and then you have to make sure that you keep the champagne in the cellar as long as necessary. You know that we keep our champagne more than three years in the cellar which is twice more than the legal constraint. So, we love to take the time to do it right and because we are part of LVMH what is the most important for Veuve Clicquot is not any success of this year, is the way to be able to build what Veuve Clicquot will be about for the next 50 or 100 years, to make sure that someone one day will celebrate the 300 or 400 or 500th anniversary of Veuve Clicquot. So, it’s all a matter of being authentic, consistent, and always looking at the future to how you developed a Maison. So, this is exactly what we are doing right now for Veuve Clicquot and this trip, this expense is a perfect example of what we want to accomplish.

So, for you looking towards like the next 50 years, next 100 years, do you have a plan already in mind? Do you have a strategy?

The plan in mind is that I want Veuve Clicquot to be unique, to be recognized as different and at the level of quality as Madame Clicquot was saying “only one quality: the finest.” And it starts by making sure that yellow label the brut is always recognized as the best brut in the world. And, as well, to be able to make sure that “La Grande Dame,” the prestige cuvée is more in the radar of people because I want this to be recognized as a true, very successful and unique cuvée. So, by doing these two things and keeping the spirit of initiative as this one, plus supporting the female entrepreneurship, I think that’s a good mix, and a good cocktail, and a good recipe to be strong for the next 50 years.

I agree. My last question for you is: What to you personally is the greatest luxury in life and why?

The greatest luxury life is [the night of Veuve Clicquot’s private anniversary lunch in the maison’s Cave, and the first evening on the Orient-Express], where I took off my watch, which I never do. I am wearing a Louis Vuitton watch, but I didn’t wear it yesterday night because I just decided, even if I am in charge of this trip, and I’m in charge of this company, I was deciding that yesterday night was an out-of-time type of experience: no email, no hour, no whatever. So, for me, luxury is something that we are all looking for. It is the ability to be away from the everyday constraints and to have just the time for yourself, the time to indulge, the time to share with people you like, and that was — for me — the perfect summary of luxury: yesterday night and today, talking to you, while enjoying this incredible experience. Just look around you! We have a glass of champagne, and my wife is the next to me. How could I be happier?

Jean Marc GallotPhoto Credit: Veuve Clicquot