Italy, the land of pharma plenty, boasts three hidden billionaires in its ranks

Rottapharm's Luca Rovati

Italy: the land of good food, rich history and pharma billionaires. The country boasts a number of pharma giants in its ranks thanks to recent deals and the continued success of decades-old businesses.

As Bloomberg reports, the boot-shaped country is home to three companies with billionaire execs, including 53-year-old Rottapharm Madaus. In July, the Rovati family sold the company to Sweden's Meda for €2.3 billion ($2.9 billion) in cash and stock. The deal ended the drugmaker's four-year search for a partner and catapulted founder Luigi Rovati and his sons Luca and Lucio to billionaire status. The family's holding company will keep a 9% stake in the company when the Meda deal closes, as well as its research arm, Rottapharm Biotech.

"In order to effectively compete in the pharmaceutical sector you cannot be a small-size drug company," Rottapharm CEO Luca Rovati told Bloomberg. "It was really a decision that had a long maturing period, so we made this final decision in a very relaxed mood."

And the Rovatis aren't the only Italian family hitting the billionaire mark. Parma-based Chiesi Farmaceutici SpA reported jaw-dropping revenue of €1.2 billion in 2013, moving company founders and brothers Alberto and Paolo Chiesi past the billionaire yard mark. The pair now controls 60% of the company through their holding company Valline Srl and have a net worth of $1.3 billion each, Bloomberg reports.

Meanwhile, India, long a hotbed of pharma billionaires, has seen some new ones emerge and others get wealtheir. According to Forbes, Sun Pharmaceutical founder Dilip Shanghvi is now India's second wealthiest person with $18 billion in his pot. Desh Bandhu Gupta now has a net worth valued at $4.8 billion, thanks to surging shares of his generics company Lupin.

Whoever is next to hit the billionaire mark is anyone's best guess. But flexibility and a willingness to take on new challenges is key to rising to the top, CEO Rovati told Bloomberg.

"Many of the pharmaceutical products sold today have been discovered really by chance and not because the company was intending to discover that particular product," he said. "Like a snake you should be ready to change your skin overnight and adapt yourself to a different environment."

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