What is a Non-Profit Trust?

A non-profit trust is a legal entity designed to hold and manage assets for a specific purpose without the intention of generating profit for private individuals. Here's a breakdown of how such a trust functions, using Rolex as an example:

Structure and Purpose

  1. Ownership and Control:

    • The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation owns Rolex. Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, established this foundation to ensure the long-term independence and stability of the company.

    • The foundation holds all the shares of Rolex, meaning there are no private shareholders seeking profits from the company's operations.

  2. Non-Profit Nature:

    • The foundation itself is a non-profit organization. This means it does not distribute profits to private individuals. Instead, any profits generated by Rolex are reinvested into the company or used for philanthropic purposes.

  3. Philanthropy:

    • The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation engages in charitable activities. Profits from Rolex are often used to fund various philanthropic endeavors, including scholarships, grants, and other social welfare projects.


  1. Stability and Independence:

    • By being owned by a non-profit foundation, Rolex is protected from the pressures of shareholders seeking short-term profits. This allows the company to focus on long-term goals and maintain high standards of quality and innovation.

  2. Tax Benefits:

    • In many jurisdictions, non-profit organizations enjoy tax exemptions or reductions. This can be financially beneficial for the organization, allowing more funds to be directed towards its philanthropic goals.

  3. Philanthropic Impact:

    • The profits generated by Rolex contribute to societal welfare, supporting various charitable causes and enhancing the company's reputation as a socially responsible entity.


  1. Trustees or Board Members:

    • A non-profit trust is typically managed by a board of trustees or directors. These individuals are responsible for overseeing the trust's activities and ensuring it adheres to its mission.

  2. Legal and Ethical Obligations:

    • Trustees have a fiduciary duty to manage the trust's assets responsibly and in accordance with its stated purpose. They must act in the best interest of the trust and its beneficiaries.

Examples and Considerations

  • Examples: Besides Rolex, other notable examples of companies owned by non-profit entities include the Hershey Company, which is majority-owned by the Milton Hershey School Trust.

  • Considerations: Setting up such a structure requires careful planning and legal guidance to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations. It's also important to clearly define the trust's mission and governance structure to prevent any potential conflicts of interest.

In summary, a non-profit trust like the one that owns Rolex is a unique organizational structure that ensures long-term stability, independence, and a focus on philanthropic goals, all while maintaining the commercial success of the underlying business.

Last updated