The heir to luxury retail empire Hermès is reportedly planning to adopt his 51-year-old gardener so he can pass on his $11 billion fortune

By Ryan Hogg

Nicolas Puech, who is unmarried and childless, is a fifth-generation heir of Thierry Hermès, who founded the luxury fashion house in 1837.


The billionaire grandson of the founder of fashion giant Hermès is reportedly planning to adopt his 51-year-old gardener as part of an audacious and acrimonious succession plan.

In a plot reminiscent of the movie Annie with a highly unusual twist, 80-year-old Nicolas Puech is in the process of making his “former gardener and handyman” from a “modest Moroccan family” his legal child, Swiss publication Tribune de Genève reported last week.

The Frenchman, who is unmarried and childless, is a fifth-generation heir of Thierry Hermès, who founded the luxury fashion house in 1837 by opening a workshop in Paris.

The brand has since grown to a valuation of $220 billion and is now the third-largest publicly listed company in France.

Puech—who reportedly owns around 5% or 6% of the company—is worth between 9 billion and 10 billion Swiss francs (between $10.3 billion and $11.4 billion), according to Swiss outlet Bilan magazine, putting him among the richest people in Switzerland.

The billionaire is already in the process of passing on that wealth to his former gardener and has hired a legal team to take him through the process, Tribune de Genève reported. He is also reportedly in the process of rearranging the benefactors of his estate.

The gardener, whose identity is unknown, is reported to be married to a Spanish woman with whom he has two children. Tribune de Genève reports that he could inherit half of Puech’s wealth.

Italian outlet Sky TG24 reported that Puech had already handed the 51-year-old the keys to a property in Marrakesh, Morocco, and a villa in Montreux, Switzerland, worth a combined total of €5.5 million ($5.9 million).

A representative for Hermès didn’t reply to Fortune’s request for comment.

An unusual heir
Looking at Puech’s history with the company his grandfather founded, it becomes slightly clearer why he is looking to an unconventional subject to pass on his wealth.

In 2014 the Hermès heir quit the company’s supervisory board in acrimonious circumstances after fashion rival LVMH acquired 23% of Hermès as part of a hostile takeover bid, largely by stealth.

Puech’s other family members set up a holding company with their shares to block a takeover by LVMH, though Puech held on to his stake.

LVMH and founder Bernard Arnault later agreed to divest their shares in the company and agreed not to buy any more for five years. However, the feud appears to have caused unmendable wounds between Puech and his other family members.

“He resigned because he has felt for several years beleaguered by members of his family, who have attacked him on several fronts, not only regarding LVMH,” a spokesperson for Puech said at the time, Fashion Network reported via AFP.

“He has had some very bad experiences and felt very badly and felt harshly criticized on numerous occasions, even while he is very attached to Hermès.”

Great wealth transfer
Puech makes up a wider pool of billionaires planning to pass on $5.2 trillion of wealth in the coming decades as part of the great wealth transfer, according to a study by Swiss bank UBS.

Those billionaires typically split their wealth between their offspring and philanthropic causes, while many make arrangements to hand over control of their lucrative companies to family members.

Puech, though, appears to be the first to have thrown out that convention in favor of someone who seemingly made quite the impression on his life.

There are obstacles to Puech’s audacious plans to hand over his fortune to a former gardener via adoption. While not an anomaly, the adoption of an adult is extremely rare, and the requirements for doing so in Switzerland, where Puech resides, are complex.

An adult can adopt another adult if they lived with them for at least a year when the adoptee was still a minor, according to

The billionaire heir also has to overcome a philanthropic commitment. Puech is understood to have previously pledged his fortune as part of a succession pact to Isocrates, a foundation created by him in 2011 that is dedicated to tackling misinformation.

In order to walk back his pledge to Isocrates, Puech may face a brutal fight akin to that which he had with his family members a decade ago.

In a statement shared with Fortune, a representative for Isocrates said the foundation has opposed the cancellation of Puech’s contract.

“From a legal point of view, an abrupt and unilateral cancellation of the contract of inheritance seems void and unfounded,” the statement read.

The group said it was not its place to comment on Puech’s reported plans to adopt his gardener.

Sky TG24 reports that the adoption is seen as a legal workaround to stop the foundation from contesting parts of Puech’s will.

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