JArg G. Bucherer, the billionaire third-generation scion of one of the most exclusive watch and jewelry retailers in the world, has died just months after agreeing to sell the business to Rolex. He was 87.
The secretive heir behind the eponymous luxury boutiques died Monday, according to a spokesperson for the company, who declined to provide further details.
Bucherer agreed to sell Bucherer AG to Rolex in August, a move that stunned the world of high-end watch retailing. The firm started by his grandfather had been selling expensive time pieces and glittering gems to the global rich and famous for more than a century.
The companies didn't disclose the terms of their deal under which Bucherer remained the retailer's honorary president. Arriving at an estimate was difficult since neither Switzerland-based firm publishes financial results.
The octogenarian Bucherer's decision to dispose of the closely held family business to its most important partner took the industry by surprise partly because of the intense secrecy surrounding himself and the two companies, whose histories have been closely entwined for decades. In a statement about the agreement, Rolex said JArg Bucherer's choice was made "in the absence of direct descendants."
The agreement required approval from authorities, and it's not clear whether it has been finalized. It's also unclear what Bucherer planned to do with the proceeds from the sale. A spokesperson at the time would say only that Bucherer "has always been a very discreet company."
The sale accord put an end to dynastic control over the purveyor of pricey jewelry and watch brands including Rolex, its own Carl F. Bucherer, Chopard and Blancpain.
A Rolex spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on JArg Bucherer's passing.
The Bucherer business traces its roots to 1888 when entrepreneur Carl-Friedrich Bucherer and his wife Luise opened a shop in Lucerne, according to the company's website.
Their sons Ernst and Carl Eduard joined the business in the early 1920s, with Ernst reaching an agreement with Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf in 1924 to add the brand to its product line. German-born Wilsdorf created a Geneva-based foundation in his name in 1945 that took over Rolex's ownership, according to the company's website. He died in 1960 and also didn't have any direct descendants.
At Bucherer, third-generation JArg took over management in 1977 and drove its expansion, pushing into Austria in the 1980s and then Germany a decade later. Bucherer opened a flagship store in Paris in 2013 and also moved into London, Copenhagen and the US.
JArg Bucherer has never been known to give a media interview and is mentioned only briefly on the company's website. A French corporate filing lists him as a Swiss national.