Hermès CEO Axel Dumas is blessed with (and challenged by) some of the steepest, sustained growth of any leader on this list. With worldwide sales up 17% in 2015, the $5.4 billion French style icon, best known for its fine leather goods, is the fastest growing company in its sector.
After two years as COO, when the stock rose 175% from 2009-2014, Axel Dumas took the helm during record profitability. But he faced a major distraction: fears of a hostile takeover by arch rival LVMH. He quickly unified the family owners through share pooling and shareholder agreements that will keep control of Hermès in family hands until 2033. A 2014 court settlement requires LVMH to sell most of its Hermès stock. In Asia, where consumer tastes are shifting, Hermès is now taking market share from LVMH.
Maintaining momentum won’t be easy. The 180-year old company staunchly defends artisan production methods in France, routinely deploys its 3,000 master craftsmen as mentors, and rejects mechanization. Still, it continues to expand its production capacities and is opening four new stores globally. To reflect the deep artisan roots of Hermès and its founding family, the Hermès Foundation sponsors nine programs that support craftsmanship, the arts, and environmental preservation.
“Industry, frugality and responsibility” are the Dumas family values guiding the father of two whose mother was his mentor—and whose spirit of adventure once took him across Mongolia on horseback with his cousin.