Cedric Schweri lives on the sunny side of life. The charming Sunnyboy with residences in Cancún, Argentina and Switzerland is just as successful in the polo saddle as he is as an entrepreneur. But the Denner grandson also has a big heart for people and is therefore involved in social projects in a variety of ways. The best known is the Foundation “Polo with Heart”, which helps children with cancer and their families. We met the proud father of two sons in Gstaad for an interview and talked to him about his sporting and business plans. By the way, we learned that Cedric Schweri dreams of a polo team consisting of his sons and daughters. Family planning does not seem to have been completed yet.
Cedric, the polo season 2018 could not be better for you. You rush from success to success. You have just won the Berenberg German Masters on Sylt last weekend and now you won the second title in a row with your team Banque Eric Sturzda at the Hublot Polo Gold Cup in Gstaad. What's next on your agenda?
I have been playing the last thirteen weekends. This was a lot of exercises, now we played the Hublot Polo Gold Cup in Gstaad and then Villa Siesta before the European Championship in Italy then the season is over. The horses have many matches in the bones, they are tiered, and we are tired too. Living out of a luggage piece for two months is all right but now it is good to have a break.
Do you bring new horses in from Argentina for the next season?
Yes, I will do. If you play so many tournaments, you need a lot of horses. Also to have the opportunity to give the horses regeneration time in between.
You have a farm in Argentina, do you breed your own horses at the farm?
No, my neighbors and very good friends, have their own breeding. They breed very good horses, so I have the most horses from them. But sometimes I buy horses at auctions in Argentina too. For example, the Heguy’s or Cambiaso or Pieres they have so many clones. They usually choose the two best horses and then bring the others to the auctions. Therefore, you have the chance to get excellent ponies, bred from horses that have played high-goal tournaments in Argentina, at a reasonable price.
Why don’t you breed your own horses in Argentina?
I am not a farmer. I have my 50-hectare farm, which is a recreation area with hotel, polo fields and polo horses, but breeding is not my preference.
Do you have new projects in the pipeline?
Wine is my newest project. I realize that the winery will take a lot of my time. It is time to reassemble all pieces and make them work together. I have nine restaurants, a night club, a hotel and a brewery it’s all in the same business segment, because in my restaurants I can sell my own wine and beer.
Do you think it is an opportunity for the future for you to produce your own meat like Dieter Meier from the music duo Yellow it does at his farm Ocho de Agua in Argentina? You have enough land and Argentine beef is very popular in the market.
In the food industry in general, work with livestock, is a very volatile issue. In Argentina you have five-year cycles. The female animals reach their breeding maturity within two years. Then it takes another three years to produce cattle. If there is not enough cattle around the prize will go up and then everyone wants to sell the cattle and then the price goes down. It is gambling like with potatoes. With potatoes you can become a millionaire, or you can lose a lot of money. As I have no idea of farming, I concentrate on wine, which I know very well from the management school and from my sommelier education. Wine is something which is closer to me, it makes a lot of fun and it is a future project. So, when I get old and don’t play polo anymore I can pick my own grapes in the wine yards.
You have two lovely kids, are your kids playing polo?
Henry, the older one, is 7 years old. He is playing polo. Raùl the smaller one wants too, but he is only four years old. But he rides every day with the stick in his hand.
You are a real child friend and you engage in the social area for children with cancer and their families with your foundation "Polo with heart". Please introduce us the work of your foundation.
We have a charity organization called “Polo with heart”. We support families with kids who have cancer. The most projects are for the families not for the kids because they are usually covered by the health insurance. What we do is an extra if they have special support. For example, they are in need for a car if they want to go on a holiday or if they want a nanny. And we make a child musical together with Gunvo. We gave the kids in the Kinderspital the CD and the book of the musical and we have our wood horses in every hospital. Then we have three therapy horses in the Kinderspital and we pay the hole equestrian rehabilitation therapy for the kids in this hospital.
We work together with the Paul Scherrer Institute. At this institute they offer proton therapy which is much better for young cancer patient as to chemo therapy. Because chemo therapy not only destroys the tumor, but also stresses the whole body. The proton therapy, on the other hand, exclusively attacks the tumor and destroys it.
The problem is that the Paul Scherrer Institute is not a hospital, therefore we have no social workers or psychologist to take care of the parents and children. For the parents it is really hard to see their child is leaving every morning, crying and suffering. So, we came to an agreement with the Paul Scherrer Institute. We fully employ a psychologist as many hours as are needed to support the families.
If this trial will be successful, the Bundesamt für Gesundheit will include it in the catalog of the treatments which are paid by the health insurance companies. This will be the biggest target for us, when the trial works, well then, all the people can benefit. In Europe there are only four hospitals who can do proton therapy, because one chamber costs 80 million dollars.
What were your reason to start the foundation "Polo mit Herz" together with Thomas Fedier?
Well, I think when you are lucky and blessed and you don’t have to worry about when you get your next peace of bred, then probably should do something good and give something back. My grandma died of cancer and my father died at the age of 62 of cancer. I have seen the problems involved. The whole chemo therapy is still medicine from the seventies. There is no interest to change it, because there is too much stock of it which has to be used up. In Japan you get different remedies in the United States you get better medicine but not in our health system, our health insurance doesn’t pay for proton therapy. You have to pay 50.000 Dollar for one shot. For many people treatment is not possible, because they can’t pay so much money. Therefore, we should find a way to get it cheaper. This would need a lot of research, but this research will be way over my budget. We need someone who is interest like Novartis or Hofmann La Roche who says, “yes we do it”.
Let's take a look into the future. What are your business plans?
That’s a great question let’s see. Businesswise I think I am where I want to be. Keep the good ones, maintain them and get rid of the bad ones. I have to, because there is always something new and there is always something better coming up. Sometimes you have to reflect on it and decide about is what I have good enough and most likely, I am happier with less. This is my biggest target for the next twenty years to have less businesses, be more effective and happier.
I have founded a water project in Tanzania with solar panels that power the pumps, so that the local people have access to drinking water. Until now, the women had to walk 15 km to the next borehole. To control it and check that the water comes where it has to come an nobody takes money and benefits is the biggest challenge at the moment. I ‘m convinced this project can help to make the live better for many people in Tanzania. I live a very good life where every I live. So, I want got give something back. If everyone would contribute only 10% from what they own, we would have no more poor people in the world.
And what do you want in private in the future?
I have two lovely kids, and I hope to have some more. For a year I am together with my new girl-friend Jennifer. A relationship is never easy especially if you travel so much as I do, and an intact family life is very important to me. I am now 41, and a polo team needs four players, I have two boys, so we will see. So when I just want to be the coach ....
It was destiny, when I played the first time in Argentina some weeks ago with my son Henry and he was riding in front of me, I had to cry. It was so emotionally, I thought when I could have my one polo team with all my sons and daughters, then I will flip the page, look up to my dad and say we did it. A big dream and a big vision.
You've played a lot of tournaments with handicaps between 10-15 this year with great success. Are the 20-goal tournaments a challenge for the future?
That is not an alternative for me. The financial effort at this level is many times higher than at 10-15 goal tournament. You need three professionals and even more and better horses. In the 10-15 Goal Tournaments I can play together with my professionals and have a lot of fun, but on handicap 20 or more only the three Professionals are playing, and I cannot contribute much to the game. I would like to have fun playing polo and I will stick to handicap 10-15. High goal tournaments would also cost a lot more money, I can use this money more meaningfully in my charity projects.
Thank you very much for the interview Cedric and good luck
“Cedric is a great ambassador for our Bank”
Christina Sturzda: “What is the reason that you are involved in polo sport. Especially now sponsoring Cedric Schweri?
We started sponsoring Polo teams about three year ago, as we were fascinated by the game. Through the organizer we had the possibility to meet Cedric. So, this was the opportunity for us to build our own team. And now. year after year we come back. Cedric is a great ambassador for our bank. It is a privilege to have a person with such a special personality as an ambassador. I hope we see Cedric in the final on Sunday, and I am sure we will be back in Gstaad with Cedric next year.
Photo credit Kathrin Gralla