Hermes Heir Bequeathes $17 Billion To His Handyman, Leaving Family Outraged

His relatives are reportedly punching the air right now...

Hermes Heir Bequeathes $17 Billion To His Handyman, Leaving Family Outraged

Image: DMARGE/Jeune Afrique

Key Points In This Story

  • Billionaire Nicolas Puech plans to adopt his 51-year-old former gardener, bequeathing him a $17 billion AUD fortune.
  • Puech’s decision stems from strained family relations and corporate conflicts.
  • The adoption faces legal challenges and opposition from Puech’s philanthropic partners.

When you look at India’s abandoned $30 Million ‘Sky Mansion’ or Daniel Saunders’ $1.5 million private jet and party blow-out, it’s easy to assume that everyone who has access to a nice chunk of cash is prone to spend it wantonly. However, this touching story — from which the tyrannical patriarch of Succession could learn a couple of things — might be about to change your point of view.

Like something straight out of a modern-day fairy tale, Nicolas Puech — the 80-year-old billionaire heir to the Hermès fortune — is making headlines for his leftfield succession plan. The Swiss publication Tribune de Genève recently reported that Puech is in the process of adopting his former gardener, a 51-year-old man from a modest Moroccan family, as his legal child in part of a long-term strategy to bequeath his estimated $17 billion AUD ($11 billion USD) fortune to his longtime employee.

Puech, who is unmarried and childless, descends from Thierry Hermès, the founder of the luxury fashion house established in 1837. The goliath Hermès brand — now valued at $330 billion AUD ($220 billion USD) — reigns as the third-largest publicly listed company in France. As a fifth-generation heir, Puech holds approximately 5% to 6% of the company.

The Unconventional Heir

The identity of the oh-so-lucky gardener remains undisclosed at time of writing, but it is understood that he is married to a Spanish woman and has two children. Reports indicate that Puech has already gifted his gardener properties worth a combined €5.5 million, including a home in Marrakesh and a villa in Montreux.

Puech on his Spanish estate. Image: Shutterstock

This move has not been without its complications. Adopting an adult in Switzerland involves stringent legal requirements, such as having lived with the adoptee for at least a year when they were a minor. It remains unclear how Puech hopes to get around this issue, but we do know that money has a funny way of talking its way around the law, especially in Switzerland…

Puech also has to navigate a philanthropic commitment he made to Isocrates, a foundation he established in 2011 dedicated to combating misinformation. The foundation has opposed Puech’s attempts to redirect his wealth, likely leading to a protracted legal battle.

Puech’s decision to adopt his gardener is also influenced by a tumultuous history with his family and the company of which they are all part. In 2014, he resigned from Hermès’ board following a hostile takeover attempt by rival LVMH. This exacerbated pre-existing family tensions, with Puech harshly criticized by his relatives.

The Great Wealth Transfer

Puech’s decision reflects an emerging trend among billionaires preparing for the so-called “great wealth transfer,” wherein an estimated $7.9 trillion AUD ($5.2 trillion USD) will be passed down in the coming decades. While most billionaires distribute their wealth among offspring and philanthropic causes, Puech’s unique choice shows that things can be done differently (some might even say, better).

All we’re saying is that if you’re looking to make a career change or even take up a new hobby, gardening may be a more lucrative place to start than you previously thought…