Heiniger Resigns as Rolex SA CEO

Patrick Heiniger, 58, the chief executive officer of Swiss luxury watchmaker Rolex S.A., has unexpectedly resigned after 16 years for “personal” reasons, said the Rolex Group in a Dec. 16 announcement.

Heiniger, who succeeded his father Andre in job in 1992, will leave by the end of 2008, a record year for the Geneva, Switzerland-based watchmaker, says the company.

Succeeding him is finance director and banker Bruno Meier. His appointment was announced by the company Dec. 20.

Separately, the Rolex Group has denied a report this month by the French financial newspaper L’Agefi that it may have lost up to 1 billion Swiss francs (about $930 million), allegedly invested in the global ponzi scheme of  Bernard Madoff, the U.S. money manager who has been charged with a $50 billion international fraud, one  of the largest in history.

The unexpected resignation of Patrick Heiniger ends 45 years of leadership of Rolex under the Heiniger family. His father Andre became CEO in 1963, following the death of founder Hans Wilsdorf, and built Rolex into an internationally-renowned watch brand and luxury icon.