Billionaire Nicolas Puech, an 80-year-old heir to the Hermès fortune without any descendants, intends to adopt his former gardener and transfer his fortune to him – writes the British daily “The Guardian”. However, before an heir is appointed, Puech will have to fight a court battle with his foundation, with which he prepared an “inheritance agreement” years ago. It is estimated that his fortune exceeds EUR 12 billion.
The Isocrates Foundation formally “opposed” its founder’s decision on Tuesday. In addition to Puech himself, the organization’s board includes five people who managed to vote him out.
Possible court battle
In their statement, other representatives of the foundation emphasized that they “cannot assess the context of the announcement of the decision” regarding the will. “From a legal point of view, the sudden and unilateral invalidation of the inheritance agreement seems groundless. The foundation opposed such a move, but we remain open to talks with our founder and president,” we read in the foundation’s statement.
The foundation’s main goal is to “protect public debate”. The statement recalled that the organization was founded to protect “journalism and media organizations, as well as strengthen investigative journalism” and support other foundations “working for sustainable digital development.”
Puech’s lawyer did not respond to The Guardian’s request for comment. However, in an interview with Bloomberg, he announced that his client might organize a press conference to “effectively separate facts from slander.”
Who is Nicolas Puech?
Nicolas Puech would not have been such a wealthy man if it were not for his great-grandfather, Thierry Hermès, who in 1837 in Paris founded a company producing equestrian accessories. His successors expanded the range first to include leather goods and later to include clothes.
Today, the luxurious fashion house Hermès is famous for, among others, from collector’s “Birkin” handbags or iconic scarves. After the French concern LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) acquired significant shares in Hermès in 2014, Nicolas Puech is the largest individual shareholder of the family company (he owns 5.7% of the company’s assets).
Billions for the gardener and the handyman
Puech, unlike the rest of his family, was against cooperation with LVMH, which is why he left the company’s supervisory board in 2014. Currently lives in Switzerland. As he has no wife or children and is not on good terms with the rest of his family, he decided – as reported by the daily “Tribune de Geneve” – to take care of the future of his estate in an unusual way.
Having hired a team of lawyers, he began the adoption process, the aim of which is to adopt as sons a man who worked for him as a gardener and handyman. This 51-year-old comes from a Moroccan family. He has a Spanish wife and two children. His identity has not been disclosed. According to Swiss media reports, she plans to leave him half of her fortune of 12 billion euros.
The process is in doubt
Under Swiss law, adult adoption is only allowed if the adopted person lived with the adoptive parent for at least a year while still a minor. It is unclear whether Puech will be able to meet this condition.
As the New York Post notes, delving into Puech’s history with Hermès provides insight into the motivation behind this unusual choice of heir.
A bitter rift emerged in 2014 when LVMH, a rival luxury conglomerate, acquired a significant stake in Hermès, sparking bitter conflict within the family. Puech’s subsequent departure from the company’s board in the face of this turmoil signaled the beginning of discord with the family that continues to this day.
– He resigned because for several years he felt surrounded by members of his family who were attacking him on several fronts, not only in connection with LVMH – said Puech’s spokesman at the time.
Hermès shares have almost quadrupled since spring 2020, giving it a market value of €209 billion.
Main photo source: Shutterstock