Cie Financiere Richemont AG

This is the kind of headquarters I've been expecting to find in Switzerland: a low-key, five-story red brick building overlooking the lakefront with only a small plaque identifying the occupant and that's what I find at Cie Financiere Richemont.

Gertrud Almgren, personnel and administration manager, gives me a warm welcome and extensive tour of the place. Built in 1992, the company-owned building overlooks Lake Zug and has 15 people working here. That's a small number of staff here considering this big holding company had 1995 revenues of 3.9 billion pounds, profit 688 million pounds. What does the company do? It holds controlling interest in a variety of businesses including Rothmans International, the big tobacco manufacturer. It owns 69% of Vendome Luxury Group which in turn owns some of the world's most famous names in luxury goods: Cartier, Alfred Dunhill, Piaget, Sulka, Chloe, Karl Lagerfeld, Mount Blanc and Baume & Mercier. Richemont has holdings in electronic media companies (pay television) plus owns over 50% of Hanover Direct, the mail order catalog concern.

With 15 employees there's no cafeteria, but there're plenty of places to eat being only several blocks from downtown Zug. Though here's no fitness center employees do have use of shower facilities.

From Managing Director Johann Rupert's third floor corner office he's got a great view of the lake. I count one plant, a computer and a pack of cigarettes on his desk. Yep I do check to see if they're a company brand and they are (Rothmans, Dunhill and Peter Stuyvesant are several of the company's biggest cigarette brands).

The elongated leather-topped table in the boardroom is pear wood and black leather chairs encircle it. Two real plants in the boardroom as well as six packs of cigarettes and, for some strange reason, a bronze bust of Beethoven wearing a scarf done in 1891.

Though there's a definite sense of formality here, I pick up a tell-tell sign of informality when Almgren takes me up to the roof deck and I see the gas barbecue. Wow, what I great place to grill a few steaks, have a cold beer and watch the sun set over the lake.