Little known in France, but well established in the United States and the United Kingdom, the three-color Chargeurs Museum Solutions (CMS) has in three years, through external growth, become a major service provider for museums – and even “the world’s largest creative studio of content for cultural institutions, foundations and iconic corporate brands,” said the CEO of the Chargeurs group, Michaël Fribourg. The businessman has just acquired 80% of Skira, a world reference in the publication of works of art and design, such as that of Ovid. ‘ Metamorphoses illustrated by Picasso.
Based in Milan but with a subsidiary in France, the Skira house has published more than 6,500 titles and diversified its offer around catalog raisonnés and exhibitions, limited editions intended for collectors, commissions for institutions such as the Louvre d’Abu Dhabi or the Quai Branly Museum. Skira also hosts temporary exhibitions, from design to ticketing (Renoir, Cézanne, Bacon, Vinci, Monet, Titian, Picasso, Caravaggio, Pop Art… soon Avedon and Hokusai), manages museum bookstores, co-produces films and cultural documentaries.
“This strengthens our expertise with institutions and luxury brands that we can support permanently and not just when designing or renovating spaces,” says Michaël Fribourg.
It’s the 7e takeover Chargeurs in museum services. The CEO, who keeps management in place at all times, “intends to actively pursue the consolidation of this still fragmented market but with strong growth and profitability potential”.
Acquisition of leaders
Michaël Fribourg, at the head of the group of the same name that bought out Chargeurs from Jérôme Seydoux in 2015, set up his culture division by buying Leach, a major English graphics studio, and then Design & Products, an American platform for integrated solutions for museums ( project management, interior design, scenography, engineering) with clients such as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, the Georges W. Bush Presidential Center, the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, the National Museum of the Marine Corps, the National Museum of African American History and culture or the National September 11 Memorial Museum.
CMS then integrated the London-based MET Studio, which excels at immersive experiences, and designed the Mobilités Pavilion, designed by Norman Foster for the Dubai World’s Fair. Finally, he came into contact with the Dutch Hypsos, well established in the Gulf, which produces scale models, and the English Event Communications, which focuses on the planning and design of museum projects.
100 million turnover
Ultimately, CMS brings all business expertise together and exceeds a turnover of more than 100 million euros, of which 40% is generated by US institutions. It targets 150 to 200 million euros in 2023 and an operating margin of more than 10%. “And of our 750 employees – talents from National Geographic or the BBC, experienced in telling stories for a large audience, but also designers, 3D modellers, hygrometry specialists, master planners, etc. – we find many French expats abroad because we use our museum skills,” explains Michaël Friborg.
In view of the many museums in France, how do you explain the lack of CMS there? “France, despite being the world leader in luxury, has not measured the extent to which museums are one of the areas of experiential luxury. The latter are lagging behind in the visitor experience compared to their US or Gulf counterparts who have invested massively. The National Heritage of Washington will spend half a billion dollars on it in four years, and a quarter is reserved for us. The Brooklyn Museum, of which I am the only European board member, can raise 50 million in 48 hours,” explains the manager, who serves 300 museums as far as Hong Kong and Singapore, with an order book full for four years.
According to him, French museums, which are essentially public, remain too focused on the improvement of works, which they feel speak for themselves, or on architectural gestures such as the Vuitton Foundation or the Bourse de Commerce de la Pinault Collection.
“In Latin Europe, museums are not yet perceived as premium brands, unlike those in Northern Europe that have found their profitability. However, there is global, geopolitical, economic, cultural competition from museums: we must not fall victim to a drop-out”, warns Michaël Fribourg.
Reorganization at Chargeurs
Chargeurs, which was acquired by the Friborg family group in 2015, is being realigned around three strategic business areas: technologies, luxury and diversification to reflect the acceleration of its value creation strategy. The former includes Chargeurs Protective Films and Chargeurs PCC Fashion Technologies, global leaders in technology niches and services. The second brings together Chargeurs Luxury Materials, Chargeurs Museum Solutions, Chargeurs Healthcare Solutions and Swaine, key players in the new luxury categories. The third brings together the future minority interests, financial or strategic, of the Group, which aims to achieve a turnover of one billion euros by 2025.