Foto: f.x.brun

Rooted in the canton of Uri

A variety of ways to help

Brot­hers Peter and Max Dätwy­ler foun­ded the Dätwy­ler Foun­da­tion in 1990 with private funds. Even today, this grant-giving foun­da­tion based in Altdorf recei­ves sizeable sums from the divi­dends of Pema Holding AG. This approach, making use of foun­der privi­le­ges, is not to be found anywhere else in Switzerland.

The Dätwy­ler Foun­da­tion can look back over a record year: this Uri-based foun­da­tion paid out 3.5 million Swiss francs in funding in 2021 – more than ever before. The bulk of this money was used for projects in the canton of Uri or to bene­fit the popu­la­tion living there. The fact that the Dätwy­ler Foun­da­tion is now one of the biggest grant-giving foun­da­ti­ons in Switz­er­land is down to Peter and Max Dätwy­ler. These two brot­hers took up the opera­tio­nal manage­ment of the indus­trial firm Dätwy­ler Holding AG in 1958, and set up the foun­da­tion in 1990 as part of succes­sion plan­ning. As part of this, they opted for a clever legal solu­tion: they moved their holdings to the newly foun­ded Pema Holding AG, its name a combi­na­tion of ‘Peter’ and ‘Max’. Since then, it has been the owner of Dätwy­ler Holding AG, along­side its public share­hol­ders, and has been fully owned by Dätwy­ler Führungs AG. Pema Holding is the majo­rity share­hol­der of Dätwy­ler Holding. Using the ‘foun­der privi­le­ges’ (now called ‘special privi­le­ges’) set out in the Swiss Code of Obli­ga­ti­ons, the brot­hers were able to claim sizeable amounts of the divi­dends. In 1990, these claims were assi­gned to the new foun­da­tion. Today, the special privi­le­ges remain a key source of the foundation’s assets. Plus, both foun­ders contri­bu­ted private funds to the foun­da­tion upon its establishment. 

The garden at the head­quar­ters of the Dätwy­ler Foun­da­tion at the Haus der Musik in Altdorf.
Photo: Valen­tin Luthiger 

Feasi­ble thanks to waiving assets

This is the only instance in Switz­er­land where this solu­tion has been used, and it was only possi­ble thanks to Peter and Max Dätwy­ler and their fami­lies waiving their assets, says Susanne Döhnert, Mana­ging Direc­tor of the Dätwy­ler Foun­da­tion. ‘They wanted to sepa­rate power from capi­tal.’ As the brot­hers assi­gned their foun­der privi­le­ges to the foun­da­tion, it became the reci­pi­ent of divi­dends disbur­sed by Pema Holding AG. Plus, in the unli­kely event of a liqui­da­tion, the foun­da­tion would also receive bene­fits from Dätwy­ler Holding AG. 

In their case, the term ‘corpo­rate foun­da­tion’ does not really apply: ‘The company and the foun­da­tion are two inde­pen­dent, legally sepa­rate cons­tructs,’ she empha­si­ses, even though the name and its loca­tion in Altdorf would make people think that there’s a connec­tion, espe­ci­ally in their home canton of Uri. And, of course, the hope is that the acti­vi­ties of the foun­da­tion have a posi­tive impact on the company’s image, while, in turn, the company consis­t­ently points people making requests in the direc­tion of the foundation. 

A focus on culture

From the off, the Dätwy­ler Foun­da­tion was a nonpro­fit grant-giving foun­da­tion set up for ‘eter­nal’ exis­tence. ‘The foun­ders were also concer­ned that the nonpro­fit work carried out by the Dätwy­ler indus­trial family in the canton of Uri is not forgot­ten,’ says Susanne Döhnert. Dätwy­ler Holding AG is now an inter­na­tio­nally active indus­trial supplier with more than 8000 employees around the world, but it remains head­quar­te­red in Altdorf. The foun­da­tion has deep roots in the local area, prefer­ring to support projects in the canton of Uri and neigh­bou­ring regi­ons. To ensure the board of trus­tees can be flexi­ble and have its own focus, the brot­hers deli­bera­tely chose a broad purpose for the foun­da­tion. Curr­ently, the foun­da­tion is focu­sing on support­ing cultu­ral endea­vours, but over the past few years, it has also supported projects in the fields of the envi­ron­ment, educa­tion, sports and science. 

Top: The Haus für Kunst Uri (Uri House of Art) offers work­shops on digi­tal art. Below: School trips in the canton of Uri.
Photos: Angel Sanchez,

Major deve­lo­p­ment and new opportunities

The Dätwy­ler Foun­da­tion has expe­ri­en­ced explo­sive growth since it was set up: it gave out 100,000 Swiss francs in funding in its first year, but this figure is now more than three million. Foun­der Max Dätwy­ler died in 2020. When he was still alive, he provi­ded the foun­da­tion with other assets that enab­led it to tap into new oppor­tu­ni­ties. Plus, the Dätwy­ler Foun­da­tion now has a broad port­fo­lio of real estate that ensu­res consis­tent returns. This deve­lo­p­ment led the foun­da­tion to rede­sign its offices in 2021 and expand them to include two specia­list depart­ments, focu­sing on funding acti­vi­ties and real estate. Inci­den­tally, the Dätwy­ler Foun­da­tion does not just provide funding in response to requests: it carries out its own projects, too. For exam­ple, last year, it laun­ched the ‘Garden culture’ series and Uri school trips, in colla­bo­ra­tion with Uri Tourism. The Altdorf ‘Kaffee­ch­ränzli’, a tradi­tio­nal coffee after­noon for older resi­dents, and gene­ra­tio­nal projects with the Uri reti­re­ment home are also popu­lar projects run by the Foundation. 

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