|Died||28 June 2010 (aged 82)|
|Title||Swatch Group, founder/chairman|
Early life and education
Hayek was born the second of three children, to Lebanese parents from Greek Orthodox Christian Lebanese families. His father trained as a dentist at Loyola University Chicago. He had an older sister, Mona, and a younger brother, Sam. Hayek studied mathematics, physics, and chemistry at the University of Lyon.
Hayek met Marianne Mezger, an au pair and the daughter of Swiss industrialist Eduard Mezger, in Beirut in 1950. They married in 1951 and moved to Switzerland. They had two children, Nayla and G. Nicolas "Nick" Jr. In 1964, the family moved to Meisterschwanden, a village west of Zürich. Hayek lived there for the rest of his life. Hayek was awarded the title of Doctor honoris causa of Law and Economics of the Faculty of Beni Culturali of the University of Bologna (Italy) in June 1998, after being awarded doctor honoris causa of Law and Economics of the University of Neuchatel in 1996.
In the year of his death, 2010, Hayek had an estimated net worth of $3.9 billion.
Hayek founded Hayek Engineering, a management consulting firm, in Zürich in 1963. He advised successful turnarounds at several of Europe's largest companies. One of his management credos was: "The rarest resources are entrepreneurial types in top management." Hayek Engineering had more than 300 clients in 30 countries by 1979.
In the early 1980s a group of Swiss banks asked Hayek to oversee the liquidation of ASUAG and SSIH, two Swiss watch-making firms that were in turmoil due to competition from Japan. Hayek believed the Swiss watch manufacturing industry could be competitive and that restructuring operations and repositioning brands would help ASUAG/SSIH recover.
Hayek identified problems in products, policies, distribution, and leadership. "ASUAG for example owned more than 100 separate companies – some big, some small, some modern, some backward. Most of these companies did their own marketing, R&D and assembly. It was crazy."
He invested in automation and standardised parts and tooling. This produced economies of scale, improved quality, and allowed production to be centralized.
The restructuring of the companies coincided with the invention of the Swatch watch. Its colorful appearance and marketing helped Switzerland regain a large share of the lower end of the watch market from Japanese makers. Hayek emphasized the Swatch watch was above all a technological breakthrough. The design used almost half the number of parts of a traditional wristwatch to reduce cost without compromising on quality.
After the reorganisation ASUAG and SSIH merged, initially becoming the Société Suisse de Microélectronique et d'Horlogerie. Hayek and Swiss investors bought a majority shareholding in the new group in 1985. Hayek became chairman and chief executive officer in 1986. His business strategies helped the Swiss watch industry regain its market leading position.
- Harvard Business Review, March–April 1993. Message and Muscle: An Interview with Swatch Titan Nicolas Hayek
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