19 September 1935 |
|Residence||Wilson, Wyoming, U.S.|
|Alma mater||Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
Harvard Business School
|Occupation||Former CEO of Synthes
Chairman of The Wyss Foundation and The HJW Foundation
|Net worth||$6.1 billion
Hansjörg Wyss (IPA: /ˈhɑːnz/-jorg wiz) (born 19 September 1935) is a Swiss entrepreneur and businessman. As of 2015, Wyss ranks number 240 on the Forbes list of billionaires, with a net worth of approximately $6.1 billion.
Early life and career
Wyss was born in Bern, Switzerland in 1936. His father sold mechanical calculators and his mother was a homemaker. He was raised in an apartment with two sisters. After receiving a Master of Science degree in Civil and Structural Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich in 1959, Wyss earned an MBA from the Harvard University Graduate School of Business in 1965. Following that, he worked in various positions in the textile industry, including plant engineer and project manager for Chrysler in Pakistan, Turkey, and the Philippines.
Wyss also worked in the steel industry in Brussels, Belgium. During his time working in that industry, Wyss ran a side business selling airplanes. Through one sale, he met a surgeon who had co-founded Swiss medical device manufacturer Synthes. After that meeting, Wyss spent two years learning about the medical device industry. He founded and became president of Synthes USA in 1977.
In 1977, Wyss founded and became president of Synthes USA, the U.S. division of Switzerland-based Synthes medical device manufacturer making internal screws and plates for broken bones. In an early initiative, Wyss opened a Synthes USA manufacturing plant in Colorado. Prior to that, another Switzerland company manufactured Synthes' devices and exported them to the U.S. Under Wyss' control, the U.S. division expanded its sales team and trained surgeons how to use its products. Wyss served as Synthes' worldwide CEO and chairman until his resignation as CEO in 2007. He maintained his post as company chairman until Johnson & Johnson acquired Synthes in 2012. During his tenure, Wyss said discussions of new products made up one-third of board meetings. A manager assigned to the Norian project testified before a grand jury that “for somebody who is at his level and his level of success, I would say he [Wyss] has a surprising amount of contact with what's going on.” Staffers recalled meetings in which he intensively probed their projects.
In 2009, top executives at Synthes were indicted by U.S. Attorneys for Eastern Pennsylvania for using an untested calcium-phosphate-based bone cement on human patients without the authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Three elderly people (Barbara Marcelino, Ryoichi Kikuchi and Lois Eskind) died. Federal prosecutors named Wyss as "Person Number 7" in the criminal conspiracy. Wyss was not indicted but four of Synthes' top executives were convicted and sentenced to prison terms. In October 2010, Synthes pleaded guilty, agreeing to pay $23 million in fines and to divest Norian, which produced the bone cement unit that had been used on human patients without having been tested. Norian was sold to Kensey Nash, a small manufacturer, for $22 million, and Johnson & Johnson's DePuy Synthes unit is now the product's exclusive distributor. After this, Wyss sold the company for $21.3 billion in cash and stock to Johnson & Johnson.
According to Forbes, Wyss is "among the most philanthropic people in the world". Between 2004 and 2008, Businessweek estimated that Wyss personally donated nearly USD$277 million. His giving has increased since the sale of Synthes in 2012 and in 2013 he signed The Giving Pledge, agreeing to give away the majority of his fortune. The assets of his charitable foundations equal nearly $2 billion.
As of 2015, Wyss and a charitable organization he founded, the Wyss Foundation, have donated more than $350 million to environmental protection, including conservation of national forests and other public lands in the Western United States.
Wyss has stated that he became passionate about the American West and land preservation after visiting the U.S. in 1958 as a student and taking a summer job as a surveyor with the Colorado Highway Department. In 1998, he created the Wyss Foundation to establish and sponsor informal partnerships between non-governmental organizations and the United States government to place large swathes of land under permanent protection in the American West. By 2006, via the initial efforts of the foundation, almost 4,400,000 acres (18,000 km2) of public land had been labeled as national monuments and national conservation areas.
The Wyss Foundation's landscape protection strategies have included assisting the purchase of mineral leases from oil and gas companies. Other causes the Wyss Foundation supports includes river restorations, ocean conservation in Peru and Canada, anti-poaching efforts in Africa, and environmental journalism. It also sponsors The Wyss Scholars Program for graduate-level education in conservation.
In 2010, Wyss personally gave The Nature Conservancy $35 million to purchase 310,000 acres in Montana as part of one of the largest private conservation purchases in the United States. He donated $4.25 million to The Trust for Public Land in 2013 for the purchase of oil and gas leases in Wyoming to prevent development in the Hoback Basin.
Wyss is involved with The Wilderness Society, Rails-to-Trails, and serves on the boards of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Center for American Progress, and the Grand Canyon Trust. In 2011, Wyss won the Robert Marshall Award from The Wilderness Society for his conservation work.
In January 2015, conservative U.S. news site The Daily Caller accused John Podesta, who was at the time an advisor on environmental issues to the Obama administration, of an ethics violation for pushing the advocacy agenda of a former employer, because he had previously received $87,000 as a consulting fee for work he did for Wyss' HJW Foundation in 2013 (that organization was later merged with the Wyss Foundation). It was noted that the Wyss Foundation had previously donated $4 million to the Center for American Progress (CAP), which Podesta founded. According to the High Country News, "nothing ever came of the accusations".
Support of scientific research
In 2007, he received the Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award, and in fall 2008, it was announced that Wyss donated the largest single endowment from one source in Harvard's history when he gave $125 million to found a multidisciplinary institute, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.
In 2012-13, he announced the creation of the Campus Biotech and of its Wyss Center for Bio- and Neuro-engineering in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2014, Wyss donated $120 million to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and the University of Zurich for the new Wyss Translational Center Zurich.
There has been a long-lasting rivalry between billionaire Wyss, who supports liberal politics, and billionaire and right-wing supporter Christoph Blocher. Both billionaires entered into public debates about the bilateral contracts between Switzerland and the European Union as well as the limitation of immigrants into Switzerland. Wyss, on the one hand, attempted to outline and foster the advantages of openness towards the EU and immigrants while Blocher, on the other hand, sought to highlight and emphasize the independence of Switzerland in those matters.
Wyss lives in Wyoming where he is involved in outdoor education programs and funds local efforts to conserve wildlife habitat and public lands in the Rocky Mountains. In 2000, Wyss purchased the 900-acre (3.6 km2) Halter Ranch & Vineyard in western Paso Robles, California.
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- Paul M.J. Suchecki (18 March 2015). "Another Billionaire Comes to the Defense of Africa's Elephants and Rhinos". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
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- Jonathan Franklin (16 August 2008). "Save the planet? Buy it". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
- Associated Press (12 April 2007). "Trout Unlimited buys Rocky Mountain Front petroleum leases". Billings Gazette. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
- Marc Gunther (30 January 2015). "Behind one of the Nature Conservancy's largest ever forest purchases". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- "Island student wins scholarship". Bainbridge Review. 7 March 2015. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
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- Zobel gets highest alumni award from Harvard, Philippine Daily Inquirer; retrieved 15 October 2008.
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- "Blick: Hansjörg Wyss, der Freund der Erbschaftssteuer".
- "Blick: Hansjörg Wyss und Christoph Blocher - Die Schlacht der alten Milliardäre".
- "#240 Hansjoerg Wyss". Forbes. 6 August 2015. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
- Jeanne O'Brien (5 January 2011). "Wilderness Medicine Campus Coming to Wyoming". snewsnet.com. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
- Faith Echtermeyer (8 January 2014). "Swiss billionaire merges winemaking, conservation on coast". ocregister.com. Orange County Register. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- "Bloomberg Visual Data: Billionaires". Bloomberg Business. 6 August 2015. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
- "#1044 Amy Wyss". Forbes. 18 August 2015. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
- Halter Ranch website, halterranch.com
- Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, wyss.harvard.edu
- The Wyss Foundation, wyssfoundation.org