Putting On Heirs

A new generation is leading Europe's biggest family firms toward new profits--and risks

When he was in his late 20s, Ernesto Bertarelli had the world at his feet. A passionate yachtsman, he was handsome and wealthy, on his way to getting a Harvard M.B.A., and his girlfriend was a former beauty queen. But when his father Fabio fell sick with cancer, Ernesto had to grow up fast. In 1996 he took over Serono, a fertility-drug company Fabio had built up after inheriting it from his father. If anybody inside or outside the Geneva-based company had doubts about the succession, those doubts quickly disappeared. Under the younger Bertarelli's leadership, Serono has shifted its focus from...

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