Swatch Names Nayla Hayek as Chairwoman

Swatch, the world’s largest watchmaker, will remain family run. Nayla Hayek to succeed her late father, Nicolas Hayek.

PARIS — The board of the Swatch Group has appointed Nayla Hayek as chairman to succeed her late father Nicolas Hayek, thereby ensuring the world’s largest watchmaker will remain family run.

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The announcement surprised markets, which had widely expected Nicolas Hayek’s son Nick to take on the duties of chairman in addition to his position as chief executive officer. However, with the two siblings in charge, analysts did not expect any significant change in the company’s strategy going forward.

“It’s obvious that Nick will be the guy who will run the show,” said Rene Weber, analyst at Vontobel. “But for me, the main point is that it’s a strong sign from the family that both of them are behind the group.”

Nicolas Hayek, the charismatic Swatch co-founder credited with saving the Swiss watch industry in the Eighties, died of a heart attack on Monday at the age of 82 while working at the company’s headquarters in Biel, Switzerland.

Nayla Hayek has sat on the Swatch Group board since 1995 and was named vice president earlier this year.

“Nayla Hayek has been prepared for this function during the past years and has long-standing experience within the board of directors. In addition, she was successfully active in various operational functions during the last years,” Swatch Group stated.

According to the company’s Web site, she is responsible for Swatch Group Middle East, Swatch Group India and the brand Balmain, and has also taken over the operational leadership of Tiffany Watches.

However, she has kept a relatively low profile compared with her brother Nick and her son Marc, ceo of Blancpain, who has been touted as a potential future ceo for Swatch Group.

“From an operational perspective, she hasn’t had a real hands-on role, certainly not in the same way as, say, Nick and Marc, who are often wheeled out at business presentations and investors’ presentations to talk about the business of the group,” said Jon Cox, analyst at Kepler Capital Markets. “I tend to think that Nayla will be more of a backseat driver from the chairperson’s position, and I think Nick will be running the business on a day-to-day basis. I certainly don’t see any change in strategy of the group.”

Nayla Hayek’s appointment sidesteps the problem of Nick Hayek holding a double mandate, noted Weber. “Nayla has to get known by the public. I think that’s the next step now,” he said.