Johann Rupert. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Johann Rupert. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

JOHANN Rupert, billionaire chairman of Richemont, will take a year-long sabbatical after the luxury goods group’s annual meeting in September, joining a growing list of CEOs announcing plans to quit or take a break.

The 62-year-old Mr Rupert wants to visit Antarctica and read "about 50 books".

Executive recruiters say the pressures of the top job have ratcheted up in recent years.

"After 25 years, I think I have the right to just take a break," Mr Rupert said. "I just want to be the master of my own time for a while. It’s ironic that someone in the watch business isn’t in control of his time."

While he is "perfectly healthy" and has even stopped smoking, losing several friends to heart attacks swayed his decision. Mr Rupert said he had to turn down an offer to attend the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and had to decline invitations to go fly-fishing.

Jamie Robertson, CE of executive search firm Odgers Berndtson Sub-Saharan Africa, said while critics argued that CEs were overpaid, life at the top was a 24/7 job. "It gets to a point where the money is just not enough any more — there’s no balance of life — your family life and health suffers.

"It’s all very well having smartphones to answer calls, SMSs and e-mails anywhere in the world, but it becomes oppressive."

Elsewhere, Peter Voser, 54, is quitting as Royal Dutch/Shell CEO for a "lifestyle change"; Swiss group ABB’s 55-year old boss Joe Hogan is going for "private reasons"; Pierre-Olivier Beckers, 53, is walking out on Belgian retailer Delhaize; and Paul Walsh, 57, is leaving drinks firm Diageo.

With Reuters and Bloomberg