Thomas Schmidheiny is the son of Max Schmidheiny (1908-1991). The family's construction materials empire (bricks, cement, etc) was divided in 1984, with Thomas inheriting Holcim, the concrete and cement company, and his brother Stephan, also a Billionaire, was given the construction company Eternit.
Until 2003, Schmidheiny was the chairman of Holcim, one of the world's leading cement manufacturers, founded by his grand-uncle in 1912. Schmidheiny resigned his chairmanship as part of a deal to settle an investigation of insider trading in Spain. He has remained on the Board since that time. Since the merger between Holcim and Lafarge Thomas Schmidheiny detains 11.4% of the company Lafarge-Holcim and is the biggest shareholder of the firm.