The day Stern's body was discovered, the normally sedate city of Geneva was uncharacteristically busy and crowded. The second press day of the Geneva Motor Show, one of the world's largest car industry conventions, was just ending. Thousands of journalists, car industry executives, and exhibitors created traffic jams. Anyone stuck in traffic that afternoon and early evening with the radio on quickly learned that a major financier had been found dead under mysterious circumstances that day. The news traveled fast; the rumors of the state in which his body had been discovered, with their redolence of sadomasochism or other fetishism, proved too salacious even for the normally restrained and circumspect authorities of Geneva and were soon leaked and broadcast around the world.
Most of Stern's immediate family was in United States. His ex-wife, Béatrice David-Weill, and their three children lived in New York. She had become nervous when Stern had not called her as he had continued to do on a daily basis, even after their divorce. Stern's grandmother also lived in New York, where she had emigrated after fleeing Nazi rule in Europe during World War II.