Aug 19, 2011, 10:46 AM
Business and Sailing. Two great passions that for years have defined 45 year-old Ernesto Bertarelli, Roman by birth and Swiss citizen. After having sold the Genève-based biotech firm Serono to German Merck in 2006, Bertarelli is still involved in the health & science sector. With regards to sailing, he is not going to be taking part in the America’s Cup which he has already won twice with Alinghi, but he continues racing. Bertarelli sat down with Il Sole 24 Ore (on August 17, 2011) for a chat on his investments and on the world of sailing.
Ernesto Bertarelli - Business and Sailing
Mr. Bertarelli, what areas are you investing in?
The first area is with Ares Life Sciences, a partnership between investors that exclusively operates in producing long-term added value in the biomedical field. In 2008, we became shareholders of Euromedic International, the leading European testing and diagnostic services company. Last March we acquired the majority of Stallergenes, a French company specializing in the treatment of severe respiratory allergies and immunotherapy. I am emotionally tied to Italy, to Rome, where I was born, and I am interested in the Italian market. In 2009, for example, we acquired equity capital in Esaote, the Italian company that is the European leader in the field of ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging, selling its products in over 60 countries worldwide.
Is Ares Life Sciences planning new acquisitions in Italy or elsewhere?
We always are actively monitoring our target markets to assess potential new acquisitions of, or partnerships with, companies with interesting growth potential.
What other fields do you invest in?
In the financial sector, we operate with Northill Capital, an asset management company founded in 2010. I am also involved in Real Estate in Switzerland and in Great Britain. Furthermore, Kedge Capital deals in private equity and hedge funds. Finally, part of my and my whole family’s time is dedicated to the Bertarelli Foundation. After my father’s death, we understood fully that he had left us in a very fortunate position. With my sister Dona and my mother, we decided to create the Bertarelli Foundation. Among the Foundations’ achievements I would like to highlight the creation of the marine reserve in the Chagos islands in the Indian Ocean and the partnership we fostered between the universities of Harvard and the EPFL of Lausanne (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne).
What is your current involvement in sailing?
Alinghi participates in the D35 circuit (35-foot catamarans) that takes place on Lake Geneva and, as of this year, in the Mediterranean. In 2011, we also won the Bol d'Or, the most important regatta on European lakes. In addition to this, we are racing in the Extreme Sailing Series with our Extreme 40. The circuit is structured around nine events this year in four different continents. Among other things in September we will be in Trapani, Sicily, for the Italian leg of the circuit.
What is your opinion on the current situation of the America's Cup?
What’s happening is under everyone’s eyes. It’s not up to me to express an opinion but up to the international sailing community.
For my part all I can do is remind everyone that the America's Cup in Valencia in 2007, which has been universally recognized as the best Cup ever, saw 12 teams on the water of which at least five were legitimate candidates for the final victory (Team New Zealand, Oracle, Luna Rossa, Desafío and Alinghi). Today instead, one can already guess the outcome of the next edition, which does not leave any space except for the American team in control of the competition.
I am also sceptical about the interest of the American public in sailing. I cannot believe that there will not be an English or Italian team given how many people are passionate about sailing in both countries! In Valencia in 2007 we had 6 million visitors, a television audience of over 4 billion viewers and we guaranteed all participating teams a share in the revenues generated by the Rights of the event commensurate to their final ranking.
No Italian teams are participating in the next edition. What are the reasons?
Truly, the only team missing is Luna Rossa, the single Italian team that has its own history, tradition, and that won a Louis Vuitton Cup. Luna Rossa has chosen, as we have, to participate in the Extreme 40 circuit, together with other high-profile teams. Apart from that, I am sure that Patrizio (Bertelli) is the best person to answer this question.
What about Mascalzone Latino?
Mascalzone Latino has the historic responsibility of not having fulfilled its role as representative of all challengers, of having left the Americans (Oracle) free to write the rules without any real control, and then of having left the scene.
Are you ruling out taking part in the America's Cup in the future?
Alinghi has won two consecutive editions of the America's Cup in 2003 and 2007, bringing back the Cup to Europe for the first time in 156 years. We are moving ahead on different race courses on which, by the way, we are having a lot of fun and obtaining good results.