Swatch founder and CEO Nicholas G. Hayek died of apparent heart failure on June 29th while working in his Biel, Switzerland office. The Lebanese-born business icon is widely credited with saving the Swiss watch industry from oblivion as the mastermind behind the rise of Swatch to global icon.
The cheap, plastic watch with the chic designs became a massive success story, lifted an entire industry, and beat back the Japanese challenge to Swiss dominance in watchmaking. Hayek was so successful that he added many high-profile brands to what became known as the Swatch Group in 1998. These include Rado, Breguet, Omega, Longines, Tissot, and Mido; together with Swatch, they form a $4.9 billion watch powerhouse.
By the turn of the century, Hayek was a billionaire, one of Switzerland’s wealthiest men, and generally thought to be the country's leading entrepreneur.
Hayek also had a passion for cars and played a lead role in developing the original Smart car with Daimler AG. In 2007, he had Swatch Group create a venture in called Belenos Clean Power SA to develop fuel cells to power cars.
His daughter, Nayla Hayek, has been elected as his successor and will head the company's board. His son, Nick Hayek Jr., will carry on as the company's CEO, a position he has held since 2003.
The Hayek family controls 39% of The Swatch Group.