Middle East luxury retail pioneer Michel Chalhoub dies aged 89

Chalhoub Group founder presided over the growth of the Dubai-based company, which has more than 750 retail shops across the region and 12,000 employees

Michel Chalhoub, who had a net worth of $1.1 billion according to Forbes, founded the group in 1955 with his wife, Widad, in Damascus. Courtesy: Chalhoub Group
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Michel Chalhoub, founder and chairman of Dubai-based luxury retailer Chalhoub Group, has died. He was 89.

Chalhoub founded the group in 1955 with his wife, Widad, in Damascus, Syria.

Today, the luxury goods retailer and distributor has more than 750 retail shops in the region that sell brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin. It employs about 12,000 workers in 14 countries.

“It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the passing of Michel Chalhoub, Chalhoub Group’s founder and chairman, at the age of 89 years,” the company's board of presidents said in a July 31 statement that was seen by The National.

“A visionary leader who saw the potential of the Gulf countries since the 1950s, embarked on a journey with his wife Widad to start the story of Chalhoub Group together. An ambassador of luxury who introduced many prestigious brands in the Middle East, [he] sparked a taste for exceptional products and brands in the region and greatly contributed to the shaping of the luxury market as we know it today.”

Chalhoub, who was born in Damascus in 1931, lived in Dubai with his wife. Their two sons, Anthony and Patrick, took over as co-chief executives of the group in 2001. Patrick became the sole chief executive in 2018 after the death of his brother, Anthony.

The Chalhoub Group represents LVMH in the Middle East and more than 300 other brands that include Sephora, Tod’s, Michael Kors, L’Occitane, Lacoste and Tory Burch.

It is also the owner of one of the biggest shoe shops in the world. Located in Dubai, the Level Shoes spans more than 96,000 square feet (8,918 square metres).

For the past three years, the group has been changing from a traditional to a hybrid retailer with a wider online reach to complement its physical shops. Last year, it revealed that it was reorganising its operations as the Covid-19 pandemic hastened its digital and e-commerce drive.

The luxury retailer business is structured across managed companies, operations, people and culture; joint venture; and strategy, growth, innovation and investment.

The company said its founder was "a resilient entrepreneur who established the group’s business and had to rebuild it after several historic events of turmoil and crisis. A passionate, dedicated and generous man who leaves behind a solid foundation and a legacy that will long serve to inspire us … A loving husband and a doting father, grandfather and great grandfather”.

Updated: August 01, 2021, 4:10 PM