30 Most Important Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Hansjörg Wyss


Hansjörg Wyss, the founder of Synthes USA, is known worldwide for his philanthropic activities and the creation of Wyss Foundation, which aims to conserve natural environments. Here are some very interesting facts about the Swiss entrepreneur:

  1.  He was born on September 19, 1935, in Bern, Switzerland. Along with his parents and two sisters, he lived in a very small apartment. According to him, ‘we had very little money but my family was mentally rich.’
  2.  His father a calculator salesman and his mother a homemaker will sit down as a family to eat and listen to the news on the radio. A discussion of the world events would follow and as kids we were well informed.
  3.  Wyss received his master’s degree in Civil and Structural Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich in 1959 and later earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1965. He went on to work in textile industry as a plant and project manager for Chrysler in places like Pakistan, Turkey, and Philippines.
  4.  He also worked in steel manufacturing industry in Brussels, Belgium. During his time in Brussels, he ran a side business selling airplanes, when he met a surgeon who co-founded Swiss medical device manufacturer ‘Synthes.’
  5.  Wyss spent two years learning about medical device industry and its business. In 1977 he agreed to become the president of ‘Synthes’ in the United States and later he led the firm’s global expansion by acquiring the two other companies that were selling identical products to the rest of the world.
  6.  He opened a Synthes U.S. manufacturing plant in Colorado to establish cost control over costs and supply, then expanding the company’s sales force and establishing training courses for surgeons interested in learning new techniques of bone fixation. Earlier the internal plates, screws, and surgical tools were manufactured in Switzerland and marketed in U.S.
  7.  In January 2015, a conservative U.S news site ‘The Daily Caller’ accused John Podesta ,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. It was noted that Wyss foundation donated $4 million to Center for American Progress, which Podesta founded. Nothing ever came of the accusations.
  8.  He spends two-thirds of his time in the Unites States, and the rest in Switzerland and elsewhere around the world. He first came to the United States in1958 as a 22 year old on a four month summer professional exchange program.
  9.  He 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.He maintained an active interest in product development with one-third of every board meetings devoted to new products.
  10.  In 2011 he was accused of sexual assault by his former employee, Jacqueline Long. She was enticed to quit her job in Aspen, Colorado, to join Wyss Foundation, and they fell into relationship. When Jacqueline Long wanted to end her relationship due to mounting abuse, Wyss allegedly threatened to stop financial support for her daughter.
  11.  Wyss had a run in with the law earlier in 2009, when his company, Synthes, Inc. conducted surgical procedures on patients that lacked approval from Food and Drug Administration. Five people died following the illegal medical procedures.
  12.  On November 16, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service informed Georgia Baddley, that her 83 year old mother Barbara Marcelino, had died due to injection of calcium-phosphate-based bone cement manufactured by Synthes, into her spine during a unapproved surgery.
  13.  The Department of Justice after interviewing more than 20 former employees and surgeons involved in the testing of product called ‘NorianXR’ revealed that Synthes, disregarded multiple warning and flouted the rules. Wyss was not indicted but four of Synthes’ top executives were convicted and sentenced to prison terms.
  14.  In June 2012 Wyss sold the Synthes Company for $21.3 billion in cash and stock to Johnson & Johnson. Under the term of agreement, each share of Synthes common stock will be exchanged for $58.17 in cash and 1.718 shares of Johnson & Johnson common stock.
  15.  In 1998 he created the Wyss Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving land in the American West. According to ‘Businessweek,’ magazine it is estimated, Wyss personally donated nearly UDS$277 million from 2004 through 2008.
  16.  With the effort of his foundation, almost 4,400,000 acres of public land in the American West, has been labeled as national monuments and national conservation areas. The landscape protection strategies have included assisting the purchase of mineral leases from oil and gas companies.
  17.  His Wyss Foundation has committed $65 million in 2017 to African Park, a conservative which is a well-respected nonprofit organization based in South Africa, specializing in restoring and managing the continent’s magnificent parks and preserves.
  18.  One of the biggest beneficiaries of his donation was the Center for Biological Diversity, which got a commitment for $10 million for five million over five years. The center focused on protecting land and species and has reputation for using tough tactics, often filing lawsuits to achieve its goals.
  19.  His $125 million gift to Harvard was that University’s largest ever besting even David Rockefeller, whose single biggest donation to the school was $100 million. He funded the Wyss Institute for Biological Inspired Engineering, which aims to make engineering principles from nature and apply them to create materials and devices that will revolutionize health care and create a more sustainable world.
  20.  Wyss’ other foundation, the Hansjorg Wyss Foundation, had about $172 million in assets and gave away about $4.9 million in 2007. It focuses mostly on education and training of surgeons. This funding helped in forging tight relationship with surgeons.
  21.  In 2010, Wyss personally gave ‘The Nature Conservancy $35 million to purchase 310,000 acres of private timberland to protect grizzly bear and wolverine habitat in northern Montana as part of one of the largest private conservation purchase in the Unites States.
  22.  His giving has increased since the sale of Synthes in 2012 and in 2013 he signed ‘The Giving Pledged, agreeing to give away the majority of his fortune.
  23.  In 2013 Wyss committed $5 million to a Clinton Foundation initiative in support of global rights for women and girls
  24.  In 2013 he donated $4.25 million to the ‘The Trust for Public Land,’ to buy back 58,000 acres of oil and gas leases in Wyoming’s Hoback Basin, a prized retreat for rafters, fisherman and hunters, and major migration route for wildlife.
  25.  In October 2018, Wyss published an article in the New York Times stating that he was contributing $1 billion to the environmental causes. He said plant and animal species are estimated to be disappearing at a rate 1,000 times faster and for my part, I have decided to donate over the next decade to help accelerate land and ocean conservation efforts around the world.
  26.  In 2011 he was awarded the ‘Robert Marshall Award,’ from The Wilderness Society,’ for his conservation work. He is involved with ‘The Wilderness Society,’ ‘Rails-to-Trails,’ and serves on the board of the ‘Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Center for America Progress,’ and the ‘Grand Canyon Trust.’
  27.  In 2014, with the donation of $120 million from Wyss, the Swizz Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and the University of Zurich have established a new interdisciplinary research platform.
  28.  Wyss supports left-wing politics that foster the advantage of openness towards the European Union and immigrants. There has been a long rivalry between him and conservative Christopher Blocher, who emphasize the independence of Switzerland, in those matters. He publicly declared in 2015 to be in favor of higher inheritance taxes for wealthy in Switzerland.
  29.  He lives in Wyoming where he is involved in outdoor education programs and fund local efforts to conserve wildlife habitat. He has purchased Halter Ranch & Vineyard in 2000, and is into the business of producing 13 varietals with methods that are ‘Sustainability in Practice’ certified. The range hosts tours and was named ‘Best Vineyard Experience’ by Sunset Magazine’ in 2015.
  30.  He is divorced and has daughter Amy, who is a billionaire heir and philanthropist. He is an active hiker, skier, backpacker and a hobby pilot.
  31.  Hansjörg Wyss Net Worth: $5.9 Billion

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