Life

Billionaire Hermes Heir Nicolas Puéchi Seeks to Adopt Gardener as Son & Heir, Raising Succession Questions

  In October 2022, when the COVID-19 epidemic was raging, in a small town in Valais at the foot of the Swiss Alps, nearly 80-year-old Nicolas Puetsch was sitting in the manor restaurant, eating braised lobster with green onions served by a servant. Outside the window, the autumn sunshine shines on the Merlot grapes on the manor.
  Nicolas comes from the Hermès family, the founding family of the famous French leather goods brand Hermès. As the largest individual shareholder in the family, he is worth a lot of money. According to the Forbes website, his current total assets reach US$13.3 billion (approximately 94.54 billion yuan).
  The only problem was, Nicholas was single and childless. He was so lonely that all he had left was his money.
  Since moving from France to Switzerland in the 1990s, Nicolas has had little contact with relatives. It was his 51-year-old gardener who made this lonely old man feel the warmth of home in his later years. The gardener’s family of four moved to the manor to live with Nicholas, taking care of his food, clothing, and daily life, and living like a family.
  Thinking that at his age, thanks to the care of the gardener and his family during the epidemic, he could sit here and enjoy delicious food, Nicholas made a surprising decision: leave part of his inheritance to the gardener!
Gardener·Steward·Son

  ”A very kind, calm and lovely gentleman, but he seems a bit lonely a lot of the time.” In the town where Nicholas lives, everyone’s comments are unanimous when it comes to this billionaire.
  In the 1990s, Nicolas moved to Switzerland to avoid France’s high taxes. “He no longer keeps in touch with friends and family in foreign countries, but gets closer and closer to the people around him,” said a person close to Nicholas.
  The so-called “people around him” refer to his gardener. There is something mysterious about this gardener. The outside world only knows that he is 51 years old and a Moroccan, and even his specific name has not been exposed.
  After the master and servant met in Spain, the gardener gradually gained Nicholas’s trust and became a butler from the gardener. The gardener’s Hispanic wife works as a housekeeper and is responsible for the cleanliness of the estate. Gradually, the couple and their two children became Nicholas’ only family. Nicholas calls them his “sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren”.
  Nicholas was very generous to these unrelated “family members.” He first gave them a villa in Montreux, Switzerland, and then gave them a luxury property in Marrakesh, Morocco, and about 50 pieces of farmland in Spain and Portugal…
  This was not enough. During the epidemic, Nicholas and The gardener’s family depends on each other, and he has the idea of ​​​​changing the inheritance.
  In fact, as early as 2011, Nicholas had already arranged the distribution of his inheritance. He signed a succession agreement with the Isocrates Foundation, an independent charitable foundation in Geneva, hoping to use his inheritance to support the operations of the foundation after his death. The foundation is an NGO dedicated to combating fake news. The foundation was very dissatisfied when it learned that Nicholas wanted to change his will. Nicholas Bosin, secretary-general of the foundation, believes that “the sudden and unilateral cancellation of the agreement is invalid and baseless.”
  But Nicholas seemed determined to make it happen. In order to allow the gardener to inherit the inheritance reasonably and legally, in October 2022, he asked his lawyer to update his will and start the adoption process, hoping that the gardener would become the heir as an adopted son.
  Would it work to adopt an adult, a 51-year-old adult man? “It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.” Lawyer Philip Kennell explained, “The inheritance agreement is a legal form of inheritance. It is not a will, but a contract signed between the heirs.”
  According to reports, Nicholas is currently in good health , Mentally normal and capable of autonomous behavior. He has asked the Valais authorities to start adoption proceedings. If the adoption is successful, the gardener will become Nicholas’s son and legal heir, inheriting at least half of the property, which, based on Nicholas’ current assets, is as high as $6.65 billion (approximately 47.27 billion yuan).
Get further and further away from your family

  Nicholas comes from the Hermès family, why isn’t his surname Hermès?
  In fact, starting from the fourth generation, there is no family member named Hermès in the Hermès Group.
  In 1922, Emile-Maurice Hermès, the third generation head of Hermès, acquired all the shares of his brother Adolphe Hermès in the company. But Emile Maurice only gave birth to 4 daughters, one of whom died in infancy. The surnames of the husbands married by the other three daughters have become the three major surnames of the Hermès family members today – Puéchi, Dumas and Guéran.
  In 1951, Robert Dumas, the husband of Emile Maurice’s second daughter, took over the company. This is why the subsequent boss no longer has the surname Hermès. Under his promotion, the classic Hermès Eau de Hermès, Kelly bag, and Birkin bag became Hermès’ best-selling models in the future. It was also at this time that Hermès silk scarves established their position in the industry.

  The eldest daughter Yvonne married Francis Puechi and gave birth to 6 children. Nicholas, who was born in 1943, is the fifth child. He has three sisters and one brother, as well as a younger sister. Nicholas’s brothers and sisters were all married, but he was celibate and had no children.
  Axel Dumas, the sixth-generation leader who took office in 2014, is the son of Olivier, the brother of the fifth-generation leader Jean-Louis Dumas, and is Nicholas’s cousin. As a shareholder, Nicholas holds nearly 6% of the shares of Hermès Group, and he has not invested his shares in the family’s equity custody institution, making him currently the largest individual shareholder of Hermès.
  Nicolas has devoted all his efforts to the development of the Hermès brand. After graduating from HEC Paris in 1985, Nicolas joined the Hermès Group and held various positions within the company. He significantly expanded the Hermès brand into international markets and played an important role in the development of several new product lines, including home furnishings and fragrances.
  Since 2002, Nicholas has served as Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Group. In May 2014, Nicholas officially resigned as chairman of the Hermès supervisory board, completely bidding farewell to the family business, but still held nearly 6% of the group’s shares.
  At the time of his resignation, Nicholas seemed to have been unhappy with the entire family. His spokesman said: “The resignation comes because he has been harassed by his family for many years and they have attacked him on multiple fronts.” He declined to provide further details. From a few words, we can feel that Nicholas is getting farther and farther away from his family.
“Standing on the wrong team” at the critical moment

  Nicholas is a bit out of place in the entire family, and this fact has been known for a long time.
  Within the luxury goods industry, Hermès has always been at the top of the “contempt chain”. Since Hermès opened its first store in Paris in 1883, engaged in the production and sale of saddles, reins and other equipment, the pride and inheritance of craftsmanship have been highly respected within the family. After more than 100 years of development, all management rights of the group have been retained by family insiders. They are not tempted by the interests of the capital market and do not trust outsiders.
  It wasn’t until Bernard Arnault, the founder of luxury giant Louis Vuitton (LVMH), broke in that the luxury industry was disrupted. Arnott is proficient in acquisitions, and each of his acquisitions has shocked the world, demonstrating his decisiveness. He has been called a “gentle wolf” in the luxury goods world. Arnault has been coveting “White Moonlight” Hermès for a long time.
  Everything is done behind the scenes. Arnault began quietly buying Hermès shares in 2001 and used the name of an offshore subsidiary to conceal the acquisition. He only “takes” less than 5% of the stock at a time to avoid disclosing information on equity changes to the stock exchange. Over the past 10 years, Arnault gradually controlled about 13% of Hermès’s equity, and at one time became the largest individual shareholder besides members of the Hermès family.
  When members of the Hermès family learned of the situation, they were shocked and even more angry. In their view, Arnott’s reputation was not very good, and the secret of this man’s success was nothing more than using advertising and hype to generate publicity. He is ambitious, aggressive and ruthless, which is contrary to Hermès’ corporate culture.
  In order to prevent outsiders from getting involved in the family brand, the Hermès family launched a counterattack. The 52 shareholders of the family entrusted 50.2% of their shares to an equity custodian for safekeeping, and set restrictions that they could not be sold within 20 years. The remaining 12.5% ​​set a preemptive right for Hermès family members. The Hermès family united to face the outside world, and Arnault’s acquisition plan was ultimately destroyed.
  However, in this family battle, Nicholas was considered to be “on the wrong team.” It is reported that Nicholas is the only family member who refuses to protect Hermès from being “invaded” by foreigners through an equity trusteeship. He once said, “Everyone’s freedom is the best guarantee of our long-term unity.”
  However, Nicholas has always denied rumors that he had privately sold his personal shares to Arnott. His spokesman said: “Nicolas has never sold any of his long-term shares in Hermès. He has had some very bad experiences and been severely criticized on many occasions, but he has always been very attached to Hermès and is happy to see the two The dispute between the two families ended. Nicholas never believed that Arnault’s investment posed a serious threat to the company.”
  After this battle, it can be seen that the entire Hermès family shares the same hatred and has erected a high wall against the “invasion” of outsiders. Therefore, it must be difficult for the gardener to step into this family as an “adopted son”. Can Nicholas’ wish come true? The outside world is still waiting for the next episode of this “rich family feud” series.
  Nicolas Puéchi was born in France in 1943. He is a fifth-generation member of the Hermès family, a famous French leather goods brand. He currently holds nearly 6% of the shares of the Hermès Group and is the largest individual shareholder in the Hermès family.

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