Nicolas Peuch, an 80-year-old billionaire and owner of a 5.7% stake in luxury fashion house Hermès, has made a surprising decision regarding his inheritance. Rather than leaving his substantial €12 billion ($13 billion) fortune to the charity he founded, Peuch intends to adopt his long-time gardener, who hails from a “modest Moroccan family” and is now in his fifties. This move is aimed at cutting ties with his charity and ensuring that his groundskeeper becomes his rightful heir.
Peuch, a reclusive individual and one of Switzerland’s wealthiest residents, had originally pledged his fortune to the Isocrates Foundation, which he established in 2011. The foundation’s purpose was to support public interest journalism and promote civic discourse. However, Peuch has since changed his plan, opting to transfer his vast inheritance, including valuable properties in Switzerland and Morocco, to his groundskeeper, who is married and has two children of his own.
Although Peuch’s intentions may seem unconventional, he has encountered opposition from the Isocrates Foundation. The foundation is questioning the legal validity of Peuch’s plans, as Swiss law requires individuals who wish to adopt adults to have lived with the adoptee for at least a year during their childhood. The foundation expressed its concerns regarding the sudden and unilateral annulment of Peuch’s initial succession agreement, stating that it appears void and unfounded. Nevertheless, they remain open to discussion with Peuch regarding this matter.
The Billionaire’s Adoption Plans
The billionaire’s adoption plans come after his departure from Hermès’ supervisory board in 2014, citing a family rift. His decision to not merge his holdings with other family members was a strategic move to prevent a takeover by Bernard Arnault, the chief of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Allegations and Investigation
Explanation and Response
Responding to Peuch’s resignation from Hermès’ board, a spokesperson for the billionaire explained the situation in 2014. The spokesperson stated that Peuch had been targeted and attacked by certain family members on various fronts, not solely related to LVMH. They also emphasized that Peuch had never sold his longstanding LVMH shares, despite accusations suggesting otherwise.
Settlement and Stake Reduction
As part of a court-agreed settlement, Arnault began reducing his stake in Hermès after French regulators imposed fines on LVMH for failing to disclose their stake buildup.
The Isocrates Foundation
In 2011, Peuch founded the Isocrates Foundation by initially contributing 10 million Swiss francs ($11.5 million) as funding. The foundation operates under the principle that the assets will not be returned to the founder, his heirs, or donors.
Note: We approached Hermès and the Isocrates Foundation for comment.