Recent headlines have been dominated by the unusual inheritance plan of Nicolas Puech, a descendant of the founder of iconic French luxury brand Hermès. Puech, who resides in Switzerland and holds a significant stake in the company, has decided to include a domestic employee in his will. This employee, a former gardener and handyman, will become a part of Puech’s family through adoption and will inherit a substantial portion of his estimated multi-billion Swiss franc fortune.

As a single and childless individual, Puech is believed to be the largest individual shareholder of Hermès, with a stake of around 5% to 6%. Despite leaving the company’s board in 2014, he has retained his influence and has now chosen to revise his succession plan. His intention is to pass on his wealth to a 51-year-old former gardener from a modest Moroccan family.

Puech’s fortune, primarily derived from his stakes in Hermès, is estimated to be between 9 and 10 billion Swiss francs. Reports suggest that he enlisted the help of a lawyer in October 2022 to arrange the adoption process, which is currently underway.

While adopting an adult is rare in Switzerland, it is not an impossible process. If successful, the adopted individual would stand to inherit at least half of Puech’s vast wealth. However, there are obstacles to this plan. In 2011, Puech signed a succession pact in favor of a Geneva-based foundation called Isocrate, which supports journalism-focused NGOs and projects combating disinformation.

However, a handwritten note from February 2023 indicates that Puech has had a change of heart and wants to make new testamentary dispositions. The Isocrate foundation, which opposes the nullification of the succession pact, claims to be unaware of any new arrangements but is willing to engage in discussions.

The foundation has expressed concerns about potential threats to its public utility activities, suggesting that interpersonal conflicts and various vested interests could disrupt its projects. Emphasizing the importance of sustainability, the foundation seeks to protect the legacy of its work.

This is not the first time the Hermès founding family descendants have made headlines. In the early 2010s, they formed a holding company to prevent Bernard Arnault and LVMH from acquiring the Hermès group. Puech, a dissenter, chose not to join the holding structure.

As the adoption process and inheritance plan continue to unfold, the Valais administration in Switzerland has not yet confirmed or denied its approval. The future of Puech’s fortune and the involvement of his domestic employee in his inheritance remain uncertain. This unique and controversial approach to succession planning will undoubtedly be closely watched and analyzed.

Useful links:
1. Hermès: Official website of Hermès, the luxury brand founded by Nicolas Puech’s ancestors.
2. Isocrate: Official website of Isocrate, the Geneva-based foundation mentioned in the article, which supports journalism-focused NGOs and projects combatting disinformation.