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Newly formed family investment group commits serious money to biotech startup


A Swiss-based newly formed private investment group has committed €12 million to a biotech startup, underlining its intention to be a serious player in the direct investment world. 

Massa Investment, based in the town of Chur in eastern Switzerland, was set up early this year by Wilfried Bechtolsheimer, who is married to Ursula Bechtolsheimer-Kipp, an heiress to the German retail billionaire Karl-Heinz Kipp, who died in 2017. 

The recipient of the €12 million was German-based MODAG, a biotech group involved in research and development in the area of neurodegenerative diseases, with particular emphasis on developing treatments for Parkinsonian diseases and multiple system atrophy (MSA). 

MODAG was seeded by its founders, Dr Torsten Matthias and Professor Armin Giese, and a number of medical/biotech venture groups/foundations back in 2013. But the €12 million from Massa Investment is the first commitment from a family investment group. It comes as MODAG moves to put its anle138b drug for the treatment of MSA into clinical development.

As part of the Series A funding round from Massa Investment, the investment group has appointed Jeff Putman to the board of MODAG. According to a Jeffery Putman profile on LinkedIn profile, which may or may not be the same Jeff Putman from Massa, he is a family office professional based in New York City who previously worked at the hedge fund Tudor Investment Corp and UBS O’Connor. See below for more details. 

Although Massa Investment is based in Switzerland and the fortune stems from the German-based Massa department stores based in Germany, the Bechtolsheimer family has a strong link to the UK after Ursula moved there in the late 1980s. 

Both Wilfried and Ursula are big personalities in the UK equestrian world, with Wilfried competed in many international events in the sport, where he represented the UK. Their daughter Laura Tomlinson won an Olympic gold medal with the UK team in the equestrian dressage discipline at the London Olympics in 2012. Their eldest son Felix Bechtolsheimer founded Hey Negrita, and English country blues band.

Till Bechtolsheimer, Ursula and Wilfried’s youngest son, founded, together with Abraham Joseph, a New York City-based alternative asset management group called Arosa Capital Management. Interestingly, both Till and Joseph worked at UBS O’Connor, a US-based hedge fund sponsor, owned by the Swiss bank, UBS. Jeffery Putman also worked at UBS O’Connor at the same time Till and Joseph were there, which might suggest the link to Putman with Massa Investments. Family Capital wasn’t able to confirm the link. 

The family’s connection to Switzerland comes from Karl-Heinz Kipp, who moved to Arosa in the eastern part of the country soon after he made his fortune. Kipp also built up a sizable luxury hotel portfolio in the Alpine nation under the umbrella of the Tschuggen Hotel Group. This group is now overseen by Ursula, who also now resides with Wilfried in Switzerland.  


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