Ex-family business head sails into the sunshine

By Giulia Cambieri

Would you accept a superyacht if you had to pay over £250,000 (€299,600) just to fill its fuel tanks? Maybe not. But if you’re Kirsty Bertarelli, the former Miss UK, who’s married to billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, you may see it differently.

Kristy received a £100 million (€119.8 million) yacht from the Italian-Swiss tycoon, who headed pharmaceutical giant Serono until 2006.

Named Vava II, the vessel was built in secret by boat-maker Devonport Yachts under the name Project 55. With its six decks, a helicopter pad and a swimming pool, the yacht spans over 314 feet (95.7 metres) and is believed to be one of the biggest private motor yachts ever built in the UK.

The boat, which left Plymouth harbour in England for the Caribbean on 2 March, will replace the couple’s old yacht – a vessel that measured a mere 154 feet.

The family will no doubt take advantage of Ernesto’s well-known sailing skills. In 2003, he founded yacht syndicate Team Alinghi, which famously won the America’s Cup on its first attempt the same year.

The Bertarellis’ fortune comes from Serono, the pharmaceutical company founded by Cesare Serono in 1906 that was acquired by the Bertarelli family during the 1950s.

In 1996, Ernesto, who is worth $10 billion (€7.6 billion) according to Forbes, succeeded his father Fabio as the company’s chief executive and moved the group’s headquarters from Rome to Geneva. However, in 2007, the Bertarellis ended their involvement in the family business, when they sold their stake to Germany-based pharmaceutical company Merck in a deal worth CHF16.6 billion (€13.8 billion). 

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