- Published on 19 April 2018
Andreas (Andy) Rihs, swiss business man, owner of BMC cycling and Young Boys football team, and chief protagonist in the early development of Phonak, has died at the age of 75. He is most commonly known in the last decade for his sports sponsorship with ownership of a cycling manufacturer and cycling team and the Swiss capital’s football team. But it was his vision and ownership of the Phonak hearing aid manufacturer that funded his latter-day passions and made him a global name in the audiology world.
Born in 1942 in Stuttgart, Germany, Andy Rihs took over his father's Swiss hearing aid company in 1980 with this brother, Hans-Ueli Rihs and business partner, Beda Diethelm. His father, Ernst Rihs had bought all the shares of a company called AG für Elektroakustik in 1965. Andy and Hans-Ueli took over the shares on their father’s death in 1980. The company was renamed Phonak in 1985 and went public nine years later. In 2007, the group was renamed Sonova with sales hitting SFr1 billion – Phonak remains as a brand name for some products. Sonova employs some 6,850 staff and is active in 90 countries, making hearing aids for adults and children. Sales in 2017 were close to 2.4 billion Swiss francs ($2.48 billion). Rihs still owned just under 4 percent of Sonova stock, but left its board several years ago and concentrated on his other passions in life – cycling and football.
Rihs owned Bern's Young Boys football team who are currently top of the league with six games left to play and on track to claim their first ever league title ahead of FC Basel. Cycling gave Rihs many highs and lows. He owned Swiss bicycle maker BMC and has been involved in cycling sponsorship since the early 2000 when a team raced under the Phonak brand. Floyd Landis won the 2006 Tour de France before testing positive for a banned substance and another Phonak rider, American Tyler Hamilton, was stripped of his 2004 Olympic gold medal as a drug cheat. Rihs disbanded the Phonak team in 2006, but then founded bicycle maker BMC and Australian Cadel Evans won the 2011 Tour de France riding for Rihs' BMC team.
A statement from Robert Spoerry, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sonova Holding AG, has been posted on the Sonova website. Spoerry says, "Andy Rihs has left us for good, and we are finding it extremely hard to understand and accept it. In Andy, we have not only lost a great friend with tremendous foresight and an extraordinarily creative spirit, but also a multitalented and passionate entrepreneur who left a distinctive mark on Sonova."