The timing was precise, the choreography immaculate: with two deft maneuvers, a new generation of the Oeri-Hoffmann family marked its growing influence over the wealthiest dynasty in Switzerland.

First, seven members of the fifth generation late last year joined the clan’s shareholder pool, which oversees a $25 billion stake in pharmaceuticals giant Roche Holding AG. Then, in March, another member of that generation, Joerg Duschmale, replaced his uncle on the drugmaker’s board.

The changing of the guard was meticulously planned. Duschmale’s ascent to a directorship had been telegraphed for almost two years and, in a rare public interview, he underscored the family’s commitment to Roche, the bedrock of its fortune since 1896.

“It is important to continue the successful family history and to pass it on to the next generation,” he told Switzerland’s Bilanz magazine. “We are showing that the family continues to stand behind the company.”

Their $39 billion fortune is up almost a quarter over the past 12 months, according to Bloomberg’s annual ranking of family wealth. Sales of Roche’s Covid-19 tests have helped boost its stock in 2020.

What’s striking is not just the size of their wealth, but its longevity. The Oeri-Hoffmanns have now reached the fifth generation, and gotten there richer than ever.

Generation Game
That’s no mean feat. Fewer than one in five family-controlled companies remain in family hands by the third generation, according to Balz Hoesly, a partner at Zurich-based MME who specializes in estate planning.

“It only requires a few unsatisfied members to cause real trouble,” he said.

For the uber-wealthy, managing generational change is a perennial concern. Here are some reasons why the Oeri-Hoffmanns have been able to navigate this fraught issue.

Overseeing Roche has become part of the family’s DNA.

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