Company stories

The courage
to turn the page

Elio Bracco learns German in prison and, thanks to Merck in Darmstadt, establishes his business in 1927
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It is sweltering hot in Milan on June 1st, 1927. Summer has arrived early and the muggy weather is beginning to irritate. But there are greater concerns filling the head of a man as honest as he is determined, who has decided to turn the page.

That man is Elio Bracco, ardent irredentist, who had paid the price of his patriotism with two years of detention in an Austrian prison in Graz. He is the grandfather of Diana, current President and CEO of the Bracco Group. During his time in jail, he learned Russian and German, the latter of which helped him form a close friendship with Bernhard Pfotenhauer, who would then become General Manager of the chemical and pharmaceutical group E. Merck in Darmstadt.

Upon moving to Trieste, Elio becomes Vice-Prefect of the city. But what, afterwards, could have convinced him to give up a likely successful career in public service? The desire to look around and seize new opportunities. That opportunity comes from none other than his friend Pfotenhauer, who asks him to represent the German brand Merck in Italy and sell its products. 

Birthplace of our company! postcard of the first Bracco headquarters in Piazzale Susa, Milan, 1927

And so, with courage and a quick decision, despite having no experience with medicine, Elio Bracco decides to found the “Italian E. Merck Products Company – Anonymous”, located in Piazzale Susa in Milan, with 300,000 lira in capital and an initial workforce of 5 people responsible for packaging and selling the different specialties. The insightful move pays off: the new company takes off, grows, and rapidly expands its business.

Three years later, the company name is changed to “Italmerck S.A” and it begins to directly prepare some of its products.

An increase in orders, and subsequent hiring of new personnel, makes the construction of a new facility in Milan necessary – it is inaugurated on Via Renato Fucini on November 23rd, 1931. The pentagonal structure of the site will inspire the geometric shapes of the future labels and, over thirty years later, also the company logo, designed and drawn by Fulvio Bracco himself.

The birth and growth of the Bracco Group through the story of Diana, President and CEO.
Browse through the gallery of this story
Documents and images from the Bracco Historical Archives
Deed of incorporation of Società Italiana Prodotti E. Merck, 1 June 1927
Night view of the Bracco plant in Milano Lambrate, 2013
Synthetics manufacturing works at the Bracco industrial plant of Milano Lambrate, 1960s
Laboratory for the analysis of raw materials at the Bracco industrial plant of Milano Lambrate, 1960s
General view of the proprietary medicines packaging division of the Bracco industrial plant of Milano Lambrate, 1960s
Advertisements for Jodipina and Merck Syrup, 1930s
Press cuttings relating to Merck buyback operation, 1999
Postcard of S.A. Bracco formerly Italmerck in Via Fucini, Milan, late 1930s
Elio, Fulvio and Tullio Bracco with Italmerck S.A. employees, 1930s
Elio (centre) and Fulvio (first, right) with Merck family in Darmstadt, 1940s
Diana and Fulvio Bracco in front of the Company's General Headquarters in Milano Lambrate, 1 October 1984
Fulvio Bracco with Bracco Industria Chimica employees, 1960s
View of the Bracco HQ in Milano Lambrate, 1984
Pamphlet from S.A. Bracco formerly Italmerck with head office at Via Fucini, Milan, late 1930s
Birthplace of our company! postcard of the first Bracco headquarters in Piazzale Susa, Milan, 1927
Postcard of Merck syrup, 1950s
Bracco headquarters in Milano Lambrate, 2005

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