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Richest Swiss become a little poorer

Ernesto Bertarelli is Switzerland's richest person, with a fortune estimated at SFr13 billion Keystone Archive

The 300 richest Swiss are poorer by some SFr30 billion ($18 billion) this year, although their plight is unlikely to gain them much sympathy.

This content was published on November 27, 2001 - 16:44

The annual list from the economics magazine, Bilanz, shows the 300 richest Swiss residents still have around SFr390 billion between them, even though the crash in the new economy sector and the downturn in the wider economy have hit their investments.

The richest of them all is Serono chief, Ernesto Bertarelli, whose fortune is estimated at between SFr13 and SFr14 billion despite a 30 per cent decline in the value of the bio-tech company's share price.

Bertarelli, who married last year and is father to a small daughter, had to share top position with the Roche families last year but now has the number one spot to himself.

"I think one of the biggest losers this year are the controlling families of Hoffmann-La Roche," explains the editor of Bilanz magazine, Gerd Löhrer, "they lost something like SFr5 to SFr6 billion."

Indeed, the Oeri, Hoffmann and Sacher families have seen their wealth shrink to between SFr10 and SFr11 billion but still manage a respectable fourth place in the wealth league.

Behind Bertarelli is the family Rausing, which has made its fortune in the world of Tetra Pak production. The Swedish furniture mogul, Ingvar Kamprad, who founded IKEA lies in third place with his wealth estimated somewhere between SFr11 and SFr12 billion.

Newcomers

There are around 30 new names in the Bilanz list this year. Among them is Gianluigi Aponte, the world's fifth biggest shipowner. Aponte, with a fortune between SFr2 and SFr3 billion, says his company is based in Switzerland "because you're left in peace here."

Other newcomers to the list include the American popsinger, Shania Twain, and Ulrich Rotermund, the head of the German chain of erotic shops, Beate Uhse.

The populist right-wing politician Christophe Blocher remains in the list with a fortune of between SFr2 to SFr3 billion. Poorer is the American superstar, Tina Turner, who has to make ends meet with a tenth of Blocher's wealth.

On the other hand, some have disappeared from the list altogether.

Think tools

Albrecht von Müller, the principal shareholder of the software group, Think Tools has seen his wealth melt from SFr700 million last year to just SFr30 million now.

And those in the old economy have suffered too. Hans Widmer, the president of the machine company Schweiter, is now worth just SFr38 million, as opposed to SFr500 million last year.

Switzerland's top 300 still control more than 20 per cent of the country's wealth.

"I think it's a problem for a democracy," says Löhrer, "If you have 3 per cent of the population with the same amount as the other 97 per cent I think you have a problem. There is only so much inequality a democratic society can take."

The best part of the Switzerland's super-rich live in the cantons of Zurich, Geneva and Vaud. Two cantons, Appenzell Outer-Rhodes and Jura count none of the 300 amongst their population.

by Michael Hollingdale and agencies

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