Switzerland is home to many millionaires and billionaires – but who are they, and how did they get their fortunes? We take a look at the 10 richest Swiss billionaires, according to Forbes’ 2021 billionaire rich list.
Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries, so it might come as no surprise that it’s home to some of the world’s mega-rich. Of the 2,755 wealthiest people on the Forbes 2021 list, 40 of them are Swiss citizens. Many of these elite figures belong to famously wealthy Swiss families who have run multinational companies for generations.
The individuals we’ve listed here are all Swiss citizens, but – perhaps due to the jet-setting nature of being a billionaire – not all of them currently live in the country.
Shipping and logistics
Gianluigi and Rafaela Aponte
Married couple Gianluigi and Rafaela Aponte are from Geneva, and own international shipping company MSC.
Their $10.8 billion net worth puts them at number 208 in Forbes billionaire list, and the richest billionaires in Switzerland.
Gianluigi first entered the industry in 1970, when he had to use a loan to buy his first ever ship – a German ship named Patricia. He called his second ship after his wife, Rafaela.
More than 50 years later, and MSC has become the second-biggest shipping company in the world.
The company has also branched out since its humble beginnings. MSC now includes a holiday cruise company called MSC Cruises (pictured above), and a port operations company called Medlog and Terminal Investment Limited.
Fintech finance and investments
With a net worth of $9 billion, Guillaume Pousaz is the second-richest Swiss billionaire in the Forbes list, coming in at number 262.
Guillaume’s fortune comes from the international payment processing site Checkout.com, which he founded in 2012. He’s one of the younger billionaires on the list, at just 39-years-old at the time of writing.
Checkout.com was valued at $15 billion in January 2021 after raising $450 million from private investors.
And the company is going from strength to strength. The increased demand for online shopping in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic saw its payment processing volume triple in comparison to the same period in 2019.
Healthcare – biotech investments
The third Swiss billionaire on the Forbes list is Ernesto Bertarelli, who once owned biotech company Serono after inheriting it from his father in 1998.
Ernesto sold Serono, which is known for making the multiple sclerosis drug Rebif, for $13 billion in 2007. He split this sum with his sister Dona, who appears further down our list.
They both now chair the Bertarelli Foundation, which carries out research into life sciences and marine conservation.
In addition to this, the Bertarelli family also owns Waypoint Group, which holds a wide range of investments in commercial real estate and drug companies.
Rahel Blocher received her billions in 2004, after her father sold his shares in EMS, a Swiss polymer and chemical company, to his children.
EMS has been in the Blocher family for decades, and was worth so much money that the split of shares made Rahel’s three siblings billionaires, too. In fact, her sister Magdalena also features in our list.
While Rahel doesn’t work for EMS, she is still works in family-related businesses. She heads up her father’s investment company called Robinvest, and sits on the board of the Schweizer Musikinsel Rheinau Foundation, which also belongs to her father.
The next Swiss billionaire is Rahel Blocher’s sister, Magdalena. She took charge of polymer and chemical company EMS in 2004 after her father stepped away from his position and sold his shares in the company.
Prior to taking on this job, Magdalena held management positions at Johnson & Johnson and Rivella, a Swiss drinks maker.
More recently, Magdalena has branched out into politics. In 2015, she was elected to Swiss parliament as a national councilor.
Healthcare – medical devices
Hansjoerg Wyss is a Swiss billionaire businessman who lives and works in the United States.
He once owned a medical device manufacturing company, Synthes, before selling it to Johnson & Johnson in 2012 for $20.2 billion. This is where much of his fortune is from.
Hansjoerg now owns stakes in two biotech companies, Novocure and Molecular Partners, and is also known for his philanthropic work. He owns charitable foundations, and has pledged large sums of money to fund university medical research projects.
Metals and mining
A resident of Ruschlikon, Switzerland, Ivan Glasenberg owns the largest individual stake in Glencore, the world’s biggest mining and commodity trading company.
Originally from South Africa, Ivan first joined in Glencore in 1984 when he worked in the coal department. He rose through the ranks and became CEO in 2002, a position he held until his retirement in June 2021.
Outside of work, Ivan is a big fitness advocate. In his spare time, Ivan reportedly runs and swims daily, and is a champion race-walker.
Construction and engineering
Thomas Schmidheiny is a Swiss billionaire businessman, who was formerly the chairman of building materials manufacturer, Holcim Ltd.
Holcim has been in Thomas’s family since his grand-uncle started the cement company Holcim in 1912.
Thomas is now an honorary chairman of the company. He retired as chairman in 2003 after running Holcim for 20 years, and had been on the board until 2018.
In addition to working in building manufacturing, Thomas has several wineries based around the world in Argentina, California and Switzerland.
Sister of Ernesto Bertarelli, who features higher up the list, Dona Bertarelli was the executive director of public and professional affairs at her family’s biotech company Serono in the 1990s.
In 2007, she received a large sum of money when the company was sold for $13 billion.
Dona is now a special advisor to the United Nations, works on marine conservation, and is co-president of the Bertarelli Foundation. In 2015, she became the fastest woman to sail around the world during the Rolex Fastnet Race.
Kitchen appliance manufacturing
Michael Pieper is CEO and shareholder of Artemis Group. Artemis holds stakes in a number of companies, most notably the Franke Group, which manufactures industrial kitchen equipment.
Artemis Group was founded in Switzerland in 1911, and acquired by Michael’s father, Will, in 1975. Michael took over the company in 1989, and expanded it into eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and South America.
Michael also serves on the board of several other companies, including Forbo, a construction manufacturer, and Autoneum, which manufactures vehicle components.