Philippe Lévy to René Kamm, Kurt Jenny to Ulrich Vischer: the "New Age leaders"

After Frédéric Walthard's era at the top of the fair management in Basel had lasted 17 years, there was a quicker succession of the directors general who followed him. Whereas the first one failed with a daring idea, his successors took pioneering decisions and also laid the foundation for what is today the world's most important art show, Art Basel.

MCH Group Philippe Lévy
Philippe Lévy

After Frédéric Walthard had guided the fair management in Basel for 17 years, the following heads succeeded one another at shorter intervals. The next director general to take up office in 1988 was Philippe Lévy, a former ambassador and the Federal Council's delegate for commercial treaties. Faced with an ageing exhibition infrastructure, the end of the cold war and the disappearance of the internal borders within the European Union, Lévy forged plans to open up the trade fair and to enlarge the exhibition site in the framework of a tri-national expansion. The German brand name was changed from "Schweizer Mustermesse" to "Messe Basel" (by analogy with other European trade-fair centres such as Messe Frankfurt or the Leipziger Messe).

In August 1993, the board of directors of the Swiss Sample Fair decided to abandon the plans to move to a new location as part of a project for a tri-national trade fair. That prompted Philippe Lévy's resignation as director general, and he was followed ad interim by Dr. Paul Wyss from 1993 to 1995. Wyss once again espoused the concept of the "fair in the city". The next regular fair director was Hans Hagenbuch, an engineer and manager, who had had a job in electrical engineering before joining Messe Basel, where he remained in charge until 1997.

He left after only a short period in office and was replaced by Jürg Böhni, an experienced specialist in trade fairs, who chaired the executive board from 1997 to 2002. It was a period full of changes, and key decisions were taken to shape the future, such as converting the public-law Swiss Sample Fair Cooperative into the a limited company under public law called "Schweizer Mustermesse AG", the merger of Messe Basel and Messe Zürich to form Messe Schweiz and the first staging of Art Basel in Miami Beach as an outcome of the consistent internationalisation strategy.

In 2003, René Kamm, an economist, became chairman of the executive board and later CEO of MCH Messe Schweiz AG. He has been pushing further ahead with the internationalisation and diversification of the business.

MCH Group René Kamm(René Kamm)

By the way: There was greater personal continuity in the chairmanship of the board of directors of our company. Up until 1994, the chairman was Kurt Jenny, a politician and member of the cantonal government. From 1995 to 2005, it was Robert A. Jeker from private business. Since 2006, it has been Dr. Ulrich Vischer, a lawyer, who has been equally at home in politics and private business. Back in his days as a member of the Basel cantonal government, Vischer was already a member of the board of directors of the Swiss Sample Fair.

(Ulrich Vischer)

Photo Lévy: Staatsarchiv Basel Stadt/Privatarchiv MCH Group