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The Associated Press May 3, 2010, 1:04PM ET

Jean-Louis Dumas, longtime Hermes chief, dies

Jean-Louis Dumas, who ran Hermes for almost three decades and was hailed as an emblem of French luxury, has died. He was 72.

Credited with transforming Hermes from a mainly leather goods business to a luxury brand famous for its high-end scarves and leather bags, Dumas died Saturday after a long illness, a company spokeswoman said Monday.

The great-great grandson of Thierry Hermes, who founded the company in 1837, Dumas ran Hermes from 1978 to 2006.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy led the homage to Dumas, saying "his death is a great loss for France."

Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand called Dumas "an emblem of luxury a la francaise," and a man of "inexhaustible and visionary imagination" who attracted artists such as fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, who reinvented Hermes women's ready-to-wear collection.

Hermes hailed Dumas in a statement as a "poet and a magician."

Dumas began his career as assistant buyer at Bloomingdales in New York, before joining his family's company in 1964.

The family still owns 74 percent of the Hermes group, and Dumas' son Pierre-Alexis remains artistic director, according to Hermes spokeswoman Ina Delcourt.

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