There are several ways of achieving the wealth needed to get included in the Birmingham Post Rich List. Some do it through inheritance, some through entrepreneurship, and some through the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time. But a good way of doing it is to marry one of the richest men in Europe, and that’s what Staffordshire girl Kirsty Roper did.
Not that we’re suggesting that Kirsty married Swiss-Italian multi-billionaire and the 27th richest man in the world, Ernesto Bertarelli just to get into this or any other rich list. She married for love, after being captivated by the biotechnology tycoon when she met him at a party in Sardinia.
Three years later they were married and the former Miss United Kingdom from Stone was catapulted into the lifestyle of the super rich.
Kirsty Bertarelli, her husband, and their three children, Chiara, Falco and Alceo, live on the shores of Lake Geneva. They also own a house in Knightsbridge, where the couple can often be seen drinking in the local pub, and a chalet in the Alpine resort of Gstaad.
It’s a far cry from her childhood growing up in Stone. She went to St. Dominic’s Catholic School in her home town before attending Howells Boarding School in Denbigh, North Wales where she was a member of the school choir and enjoyed sports.
Kirsty, now aged 36, left school and entered modelling, becoming Miss UK a years later at just 17. She went on to come third in the Miss World competition.
Her father, Michael Roper, and his two brothers ran the family pottery company in Stoke-on-Trent, Churchill China, which is still controlled by the family. Churchill employs 1200 people at four sites in Stoke and is one of the world’s major manufacturers and distributors of ceramic tableware, tracing its origins back to 1795.
Kirsty’s ambition was to make a career in music. She wrote her own songs and secured a record deal with Warner Records. In 2000 she co-wrote the All Saints hit Black Coffee which made No.1.
She now designs fashion clothing and jewellery and has created her own fashion line. Her charity work includes serving on the committee of Swiss charity Smiling Children which helps underprivileged children in developing countries get education and employment.
Ernesto Bertarelli ran the family company Serono – the biggest biotechnology company in Europe and a leader in reproductive treatments, as well as drugs for multiple sclerosis. He sold the company in 2006. He is a passionate yachting enthusiast and owner of the Swiss team which won the America’s Cup twice in succession. Kirsty created a clothing and jewellery range based on the winning team.