Credit Suisse: Boss' Wife and the Film Festival

Nadja Schildknecht, co-head of Zurich's film festival (Picture: Keystone)

The ties between Zurich’s film festival and Credit Suisse go deeper than a simple sponsorship deal. The co-head of the glitzy annual event is a former model and partner of the Swiss bank’s chairman.

They are rarely photographed together: Nadja Schildknecht, who co-founded the film festival in 2005, and Urs Rohner (pictured below), chairman of Credit Suisse and former securities lawyer.

A recent deal between local publishing house «Neue Zurcher Zeitung» (NZZ) and the festival effectively uproots Schildknecht, who has called the film event her «baby», from chairing the event, as first reported by «Handelszeitung» (in German).

Sarandon,  Gere in Zurich

NZZ is buying 52 percent  (in German) of the festival, which has brought Hollywood stars including Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere to Zurich.

Credit Suisse has been a sponsor of the festival since its inception, and Rohner – who worked in Germany as a media executive before joining the bank – is an avid film buff.

To be sure, leading European festivals in Cannes and Berlin don't need to fear competition from the Zurich event, but the Swiss festival has grown by great strides in its 11 years and now operates with a total budget of several million Swiss francs. 

Festival Chaired by NZZ

Urs Rohner 503 copy

With it, Schildknecht has been transformed into a savvy businesswoman and marketing expert. She has a young son with the 57-year-old bank chairman and has said in the past that she is very protective of her family life and shuns home stories or other depictions of her life with Rohner. 

As is its custom with majority holdings, the NZZ publishing house is installing its own executive as chair of the film festival, minimizing Schildknecht's responsibilities.

CS Maintains Ties

The bank signaled that Schildknecht’s new role doesn't change its sponsoring commitment, which reportedly costs 500,000 Swiss francs a year. The bank’s financial engagement today is double the amount it was at the festival’s inception, but both parties have been tight-lipped about the current deal.

«This partnership is an integral part of our cultural engagement and a great platform which is highly appreciated by our clients,» a spokesman for the bank said.

Artistic Liberty

Under Schildknecht, the festival has successfully acquired other high-profile sponsors alongside Credit Suisse, including Etihad Airlines, telecommunications firm UPC, and carmaker Audi. Festival co-head Karl Spoerri is responsible for the artistic side.

Schildknecht will retain all parts of her previous operative role for the festival as well as be ensured full artistic liberty following the deal, a spokeswoman for publisher NZZ said.

This year's event kicks off in two weeks and honors British actor Hugh Grant.

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