The Swatch Group announced today via press release that their co-founder and and Chairman; Nicolas G. Hayek unexpectedly passed away due to heart failure while at work today, June 28th in Biel, Switzerland.
Nicolas Hayek is often credited with single handily saving the Swiss watch industry after the quartz crisis in the late 70's and early 80's. As Chairman of the Swatch Group, which is the home of many well known moderate to high end brands, the decisions he made shaped the way the industry moved and kept it from nearly disappearing all together. Unfortunately with some decisions came controversy which had The Swatch Group investigated on more than one occasion for antitrust violations. His legacy will most certainly focus on this drive to keep the Swiss watch industry moving forward and the tactics he used to do so. Most recently Hayek announced that ETA, the largest watch movement manufacturer in Switzerland, and the one widely used in most Swiss Made pieces, was to stop selling blank [ebauche] movements to companies outside of The Swatch Group. At first this announcement was met with deep concern about the future of the industry, but Hayek stated he was doing so because the Swiss watch industry was lacking innovation. As of now the result of this decision has brought about many high end brands developing their own in-house movements.
Though most of his career focused on the Swiss watch industry Mr. Hayek was also instrumental in the development of the Smart Car in conjunction with Mercedes Benz.
It looks as though the announcement was made after the close of the Swiss market with their shares closing up 2.55% at CHF 325.40. He was considered one of Switzerland's most influential captains of industry so if there is any shareholder reaction to his passing it will be evident in early trading tomorrow.
Currently his son, Nick Hayek Jr. is the CEO of The Swatch Group.
Update: Today, June 30th, it was decided that Ms. Nayla Hayek [pictured below] will now serve as Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Swatch Group. Ms. Hayek previously served as Vice President. It can probably be presumed that she will continue the traditions that her father initially started during his tenure.