PARIS — Watchmaker Franck Muller and his business partner Vartan Sirmakes have come to terms after one of the most acrimonious brawls ever to shake the staid Swiss timepiece industry.
In a statement last week, the two said they resolved their differences and had withdrawn dual legal complaints filed last year in a Geneva court.
Muller gave his name to the luxury timepiece and jewelry firm he cofounded with Sirmakes in 1991. The combination of his creative skills and Sirmakes’ management helped build Franck Muller into one of the hottest brands of the late Nineties, known for oversized, slightly vintage timepieces in vibrant colors.
But the company’s future seemed questionable last year when the two men had a bitter falling out.
Accusations were brandished, including allegations of fraud, and Muller’s uncle was arrested on charges of an alleged counterfeiting scheme. Meanwhile, Sirmakes was accused of employing clandestine workers from Armenia.
In turn, Jean-Claude Biver, a member of Swatch Group’s management board, announced he would take a one-year sabbatical to help Muller sort out his affairs. Muller sought the dissolution of the company in his lawsuit.
According to the terms of their reconciliation, Sirmakes will continue to run the firm, which also controls the Pierre Kunz and ECW brands; Muller will become a consultant.
The statement said Sirmakes felt “affection and esteem [for Muller’s] creative qualities,” while Muller “recognized the worth and loyalty of his partner and thanks him for his excellent management.”
“This agreement will allow the group to continue its considerable growth thanks to a renewed serenity,” the statement added.
The company employs some 500 people and has annual production of more than 50,000 watches.
This story first appeared in the October 29, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.