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By Silke Koltrowitz
ZURICH, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Jean-Claude Biver is dropping his operational responsibilities as the head of LVMH's watch division, he told Reuters over the phone on Thursday, confirming media reports.
"I am giving up my operational responsibilities, but I'm staying as non-executive president of LVMH's watch unit and its three watch brands, TAG Heuer, Zenith and Hublot," said Biver, 69.
"I'll no longer be cutting the onions and crying in the kitchen early in the morning, I'll just come later to see if they are ready," said Biver, who has been suffering from serious health problems in recent months. He said he was doing better, but had not yet fully recovered.
Biver, one of the Swiss watch industry's best-known and most successful managers, joined LVMH in 2008 when the Hublot brand he was leading at the time was acquired by the French group. He was appointed head of LVMH's watch business in 2014.
LVMH's watch and jewellery division had sales of 3.8 billion euros ($4.5 billion) in 2017, up 12 percent on a like-for-like basis, which strips out currency swings and acquisitions. Jewellery is being managed separately and is not part of Biver's responsibilities.
Biver declined to comment on a media report published in French magazine Challenges on Wednesday that he would be replaced by Stephane Bianchi, a former CEO of French cosmetics group Yves Rocher.
Challenges also reported that Frederic Arnault, the 23-year-old son of LVMH's Chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault, would take on more responsabilities at TAG Heuer, LVMH's biggest watch brand, as head of strategy and digital.
LVMH - the world's biggest luxury goods group, which is controlled by the Arnault family - declined to comment.
Frederic Arnault had already been working at Tag Heuer over the past year as head of connected technologies, dealing with its smartwatches.
$1 = 0.8544 euros Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Sarah White and Mark Potter