Sandoz Family Office
During my travels around the United States I visited some of
the country's biggest foundations including the Rockefeller,
S.S. Kresge and Ford Foundations. My receptions at Rockefeller
(NYC) and S.S. Kresge (Troy, MI) were positive experiences but
the Ford Foundation (NYC) visit was a disaster with me basically
being told to get lost.
According to a Financial Times article read and clipped out back
in 1999, the Sandoz Family Foundation ranked as one of the world's
ten richest foundations. Where did it get its money? Edouard
Marcel Sandoz, son of the founder of the Sandoz pharmaceutical
firm, founded the Sandoz Foundation in 1964. In 1996 Sandoz merged
with Ciba to form Novartis. The Sandoz Family Foundation's 4.2
percent stake in Novartis was worth a cool $5.1 billion.
The Sandoz Family Foundation (www.sandozfondation.ch) has holdings
in an amazing array of businesses. Besides pharmaceutical and
agribusiness (it's Novartis stake), it owns or controls several
five star hotel properties (Hotel Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne,
Riffelalp Resort in Zermatt), a private bank (Banque Edouard
Constant), a luxury watchmaker (Parmigiani) and interests in
telecommunications (Interoute) and Internet companies.
Next door to Lausanne lies Pully, ranked one of the wealthiest
communities in Switzerland. It's here in a former dye factory/former
museum at the lakefront that I find the family offices.
The front part of the long two-story building houses a local
theatre group. The rear part a law firm. The reception area is
quite unusual because of the hardwood floor, piano and movie
posters lining the walls. I explain myself to the receptionist,
she makes a call and I'm quickly told the office secretary is
Returning the next day I encounter another receptionist, who
by the way is just as nice as the one the previous day. I explain
who I am and what I do and she makes a call. After a few minutes
on the phone she hangs up. I'm then informed that it's a very
small office with her and only two other people. Plus, I'm told
the office secretary has no time for me and there's really nothing
to see. "You mean none of the family members have an office
here", I ask "No", she answers, "the head
of the family spends most of the time on his ranch in Argentina".
I was hoping someone could explain to me the differences between
Swiss and American foundations. The Sandoz Foundation seems to
be a family tool for making investments as opposed to doing charitable
work. Are there tax benefits?
About those movie posters on the walls. The receptionist says
they're part of the world's largest collection of movie posters
and they belong to a museum in Lausanne.
Well, there are benefits to working in small offices. The second
receptionist gets to bring her poodle to work with her. I enjoy
a few minutes of chasing the playful dog around the furniture
and watching the pooch go slip-sliding about as he failed several
times to gain traction on the slippery wooden floor.