Switzerland is well known one of the richest countries in the world by per capita gross domestic product. It not only had the highest wealth per adult of any country in the world - with $372,692 for each person – in 20101, but also has one of the world's largest account balances as a percentage of GDP. Here are some of the men who have made it all happen and count among the wealthiest in the pretty, picture-postcard country.
- Ernesto Bertarelli
With a personal fortune of $10.6 billion, Ernesto Bertarelli is the richest man in Switzerland besides ranking 83rd on Forbes 2012 List of World Billionaires2. The source of Bertarelli’s fortunes includes the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology sectors, especially biotech firm Serono which Bertarelli inherited when his father died in 1998; he ran it with his sister for many years, expanding revenue to $2.4 billion by 2006. The rode on the success of the drug which came to form the core of multiple sclerosis therapy Rebif which saw annual sales worth $1.4 billion. Bertarelli sold Serono to Germany's Merck in 2007 and took home $9 billion with his sister and mother. The family's Kedge Capital is expanding into asset management with Northill Capital and real estate with Crosstree Capital Partners.
The 47 year old billionaire is an expert in sailing and has taken part in competitions as well. Bertarelli's Team Alinghi, two-time winner of the America's Cup, lost to rival racing billionaire Larry Ellison in February 2010. Bertarelli is still sailing competitively in the Extreme Sailing Series and in fact in early 2012, he launched a new 92-meter yacht, Vava II, worth over $100 million. Bertarelli is married to Kirsty, a singer and former Miss UK, who is one of the richest women in UK. The couple live in Gstaad, Switzerland and have three children. The Bertarelii Family supports marine conservation in the Indian Ocean and neuroscience research at Harvard.
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- Hansjorg Wyss
The second richest man in Switzerland is Hansjorg Wyss with a net worth of $8.1 billion as of March 2012. The source of his fortunes is medical device company and artificial joint maker Synthes which he founded and ran for 30 years. Wyss stepped down as chief executive in 2007 but has continued to take important decisions pertaining to the company, among which is a proposed sale of Synthes to to Johnson & Johnson for $21.3 billion in cash and stock.
The 77 year old self-made billionaire is divorced and has one child. Though holding Swiss citizenship, Wyss currently resides West Chester, PA; He also owns a 900-acre ranch and vineyard in California, and has focused his philanthropy on bioengineering and conservation. A Harvard post-graduate in business management, Wyss established bio-engineering institute at Harvard and in 2009 announced a $125 million donation — largest individual philanthropic gift in school’s history. He now heads Wyss Foundation, which gives scholarships to students getting master’s degrees in conservation.
- Thomas Schmidheiny
After the death of software giant Walter Hefner, the next name to figure on the list of richest Swiss men is that of cement heir, Thomas Schmidheiny who has a personal fortune of $4.2 billion as of March 2012. His great-grandfather owned a brick factory while his grandfather worked in cement. Father Max established the estate in 1984 which was then handed down to Schimdheiny brothers, Stephen and Thomas. While the former got construction company Eternit, Thomas took charge of Holcim, the world’s second-largest supplier of cement and concrete. Thomas ran the company for two decades before stepping down as chairman in 2003. In 2011, Thomas increased his stake in the company to 20% as the company's stock price fell.
The 66 year old billionaire is well known in the elite Swiss circles as a Wine aficionado. Thomas owns vineyards in his native Swiss town of Balgach besides owning vineyards across the world as in Argentina, Australia and California. Though a resident of Jona, Switzerland, Thomas Schmidheiny functions as Honorary Consul-General of the Republic of Cyprus in Switzerland.
- Stephan Schmidheiny
Heir to the Schmidheiny construction business and former owner of Swiss Eternit Group, Stephan Schmidheiny ranks as one of Switzerland’s richest men on account of a net worth of $2.7 billion. However Stephan’s fortunes have suffered on account of litigation since in February 2012, an Italian criminal court sentenced him to 16 years in prison after a lengthy trial on charges of asbestos-related illnesses at Eternit Italia in which the Swiss group had a stake. Supporters of Schmidheiny though point out that he began moving away from asbestos long before it was a banned substance. After taking over Eternit from his father in 1976, Stephan diversified over the next ten years, investing in forestry firm Grupo Nueva, among others. In 2003, Schmidheiny donated all his shares in Grupo Nueva, worth $1 billion, to his Viva Trust, which funds environmental causes and education.
The 65 year old billionaire is divorced and lives in Zurich, Switzerland. Stephan is believed reputed as an art collector with a partiality for contemporary painters such as Richter and Warhol.
- Sergio Mantegazza
Travel entrepreneur Sergio Mantegazza is another of richest men in Switzerland with a net worth of $2.3 billion, as of March 2012. Sergio owes his fortunes to Globus, the Swiss tour company that his father Antonio founded in 1928 with a single boat that ferried tourists around Lake Lugano in Switzerland. Since then Globus has expanded into a major travel company with operations in many parts of the world over which Mantegazza has presided since taking it over from his father. The bulk of his wealth is tied up in low-risk bonds; he also owns Monarch Airlines which though has suffered from the global downturn in airlines industry.
The 85 year old billionaire is a resident of Lugano, Switzerland and is married with two children.