Hermès heir, 80, plans to adopt gardener, 51, and leave billion-dollar fortune

Nicholas Puech

7th December 2023 – (Paris) Nicolas Puech, an 80-year-old heir to the French fashion house Hermès, has announced his intention to adopt his gardener and make him the beneficiary of his multi-billion-dollar fortune. Puech, who retired from Hermès’ board of directors in 2014 but still holds a 5.7% stake in the company, has an estimated fortune of between €9.5 billion and €10.6 billion ($10.2 billion to $11.4 billion). The gardener, whose identity remains unknown, is described as a 51-year-old man from a modest Moroccan family.

Puech’s decision to adopt his gardener comes after he reportedly sent a letter to his lawyer in October 2022 to arrange his inheritance. The adoption process is currently underway, and if successful, the gardener could inherit at least half of Puech’s fortune. While adoption of an adult is uncommon in Switzerland, it is not impossible.

However, there are potential complications to Puech’s plan. In 2011, he signed a succession agreement with the Isocrates Foundation in Geneva, intending to donate his fortune to the organisation after his death. But in a handwritten note from February 2023, Puech expressed his intention to make other testamentary arrangements, without providing specific reasons for the change of heart. The Isocrates Foundation, which focuses on promoting public debate and combating disinformation, has expressed surprise at Puech’s decision and its potential impact on their activities.

The gardener, who is married to a Spanish woman and has two children, has not made any public statements regarding his potential windfall. If Puech’s plans come to fruition, the gardener could receive substantial annual dividends, with estimates suggesting around €40 million ($43 million) per year.

Hermès, founded in 1837, has grown into a luxury fashion brand with annual profits of €11.6 billion ($12.5 billion) and a market value of €202 billion ($217 billion). The company has remained in the hands of the Hermès family for generations, and Puech is the first shareholder to consider such an unconventional inheritance plan.