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Family business billionaire takes a break

Johann Rupert, the second-gen chairman of Switzerland-based luxury watch and jewellery group Richemont, has announced he plans to take a gap year from the family business starting from September.

Johann Rupert, the second-gen chairman of Switzerland-based luxury watch and jewellery group Richemont, has announced he plans to take a gap year from the family business starting from September.

The 62-year-old has been at the helm of Richemont for 25 years. He told reporters: "I just want to be master of my time for some time, it is ironic someone in the watch business should not be in control of his time."

Rupert holds 50% of Richemont's voting rights, but he has already reduced his day-to-day role in the business by giving up the position of chief executive in April.

A team of experienced Richemont executives will take the reins while he is away – deputy chairman Yves-Andre Istel will take the role of chairman, and co-chief executives Bernard Fornas and Richard Lepeu will continue to run the company.

None of these men are members of Rupert's family, and the company refused to comment on the family's involvement in the business. A spokesman said Rupert was usually very reluctant to discuss family matters.

Analysts have pointed out that it is not the easiest time for Rupert to decide to take a break with growth slowing in China – previously the world's fastest growing luxury market.

Despite the slow down, Richemont had sales of €10.2 billion for the 2013 fiscal year, an increase of 9% at constant exchange rates.

Rupert said he had a long list of books to read during his break and was also planning a trip to Antarctica. According to Forbes, he is South Africa’s richest man, with an estimated fortune of $6.6 billion (€5.1 billion). 

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