Swatched! René Kamm, CEO of Baselworld Parent, Resigns

In seeming fallout from Swatch Group’s decision to leave the Baselworld fair, René Kamm (pictured), the longtime head of Baselworld parent company the MCH Group, has resigned.

An MCH release said the decision was made “by mutual agreement,” adding “the time has come for a change in the operational leadership of MCH Group in view of the fundamental transformation phase in business operations.”

Group chairman Ulrich Vischer will take Kamm’s role until a successor is found.

Kamm ran the watch industry’s leading trade fair beginning in 1999 and ascended to the top job at its parent company in 2003. Prior to that, he worked as a director for watch brand TAG Heuer.

In his nearly 20 years at MCH, Kamm helped lead Baselworld through an assortment of stormy seas, including the SARS epidemic, the 2008 financial crisis, and an ill-fated attempt to open a second Basel show in Zurich. But in recent years, the century-old fair has dramatically shrunk. In 2018, it shifted to a six-day schedule from its traditional eight and attracted between 600 and 700 exhibitors, half the number as the prior year. All this took a toll on MCH’s balance sheet: For its 2017 fiscal year, it posted a loss of CHF 110 million, due in part to a 25 percent write-down for its new exhibit hall in Basel, Switzerland.

Against this backdrop, the departure of the world’s largest watch company came as a hammer blow.

It probably didn’t help when Swatch CEO Nick Hayek took clear aim at MCH Group and its management in explaining his decision to depart, complaining that he had little communication with them.

“The feeling is that the Basel fair has always acted very arrogantly,” Hayek told the Financial Times. He added that Kamm “is always disappearing.”

Kamm’s departure is especially noteworthy considering it comes three months after the resignation of Sylvie Ritter, fair managing director since 2004.

An MCH statement said that “[those] responsible for Baselworld are engaged in an intensive exchange with major segment representatives and have created a solid basis for a successful Baselworld 2019 in the form of [conceptual] innovations.”

(Image courtesy of the MCH Group)


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