Franck Muller Owners End Yearlong Feud

The co-owners of popular Swiss luxury watch brand Franck Muller announced in October an agreement ending their yearlong feud. The reconciliation enables the company to proceed with plans for its initial public offering of stock (IPO) and expand production facilities at its headquarters in Genthold, Switzerland.

Partners Franck Muller and Vartan Sirmakes—who launched the innovative luxury brand in the early 1990s—had been feuding since early 2003. The dispute led to several lawsuits and countersuits as well as public accusations between the two sides, and in 2003 Muller left the company named for him to start anew.

In their joint statement released Oct. 22, Muller acknowledged “that allegations he had been led to state” against Sirmakes and the management team of the Franck Muller Group were “without basis,” and withdrew them. He acknowledged “the worth and loyalty of his partner, Vartan Sirmakes” and thanked him for “his excellent management of the group.” For his part, Sirmakes reiterated “the affection and esteem” he has for Muller’s “watchmaking and creative abilities.”

Both agreed that the watch company will continue to be led by Sirmakes, assisted by chief operating officer Didier Decker and chief financial officer Miguel Payrò. Franck Muller will be retained as a consultant. Attorneys for both partners were instructed to withdraw all legal suits connected with the dispute.

There have been hints of attempts to end the feuding since spring 2004, when Sirmakes and Muller reportedly had lunch together at a Geneva hotel. Since then, say Swiss press reports, the two often were in contact.

In a related story, the watch company can now proceed with its delayed IPO. Payrò told a Geneva newspaper that it will choose banking partners within 18 months. The Swiss watchmaker also is planning several projects, including expansion of its Genthod facilities to increase production. Construction of two more buildings has been approved by local authorities. Franck Muller Watchland employs 515 people and may add about 100 more.

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