Fernandez has previously managed Marseille, Auxerre and Nancy as well as clubs in Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, and Nicollin admitted yesterday that he had been hoping to work with him for some time.
The opportunity to bring the 58-year-old to the Stade de la Mosson arose when Girard announced last month that he would leave Montpellier at the end of the Ligue 1 season.
Nicollin said the decision to appoint Fernandez was an easy one.
"I like a lot of things about him," Nicollin told ligue1.com. "Especially his work with younger players. I hope he can do the same thing here that he did at Auxerre, where he spent five years.
"The problem has been solved for a little while now. From the day that Rene Girard made his announcement, which I wasn't too happy with, I got right down to work to find a new coach, with the help of my son (Laurent Nicollin, Montpellier vice-president), (special advisor) Michel Mezy and (Montpellier sporting director) Bruno Carotti.
"We quickly agreed on Jean Fernandez."
Fernandez tasted success during at Auxerre after guiding them to a surprise third-placed finish in Ligue 1 in the 2009-10 campaign which ensured Champions League football for the following season.
However, his time at Nancy was less successful, with soured relations with president Jacques Rousselot eventually resulting in his resignation in January.
That does not deter Montpellier president Nicollin, though.
"The whole Nancy story makes me laugh," he said.
"Last season, he finished in 11th place with a weak side and this year his side was even weaker. Sincerely, the whole story did nothing to put me off bringing him to Montpellier.
"I just looked at what he had achieved with his other clubs."