Forbes recently released its 2012 list of the wealthiest people in the world, which includes three Portuguese businessmen.
The list of the wealthiest people on earth, published recently by Forbes, includes three Portuguese businessmen, whose combined wealth comes to €6.9bn. This year’s list of billionaires includes 1,226 personalities, led by the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.
Portugal’s wealthiest man is Américo Amorim, the owner of Corticeira Amorim and who holds a portfolio of several stakes in the energy and banking sectors. The 77-year-old billionaire is the owner of a €4.4bn fortune and has been listed in the 242nd position of the ranking.
The also 77-year-old Alexandre Soares dos Santos, owner of the Portuguese retailer Jerónimo Martins, comes in the 491st place of the Forbes list. Soares dos Santos, the second richest man in Portugal, controls a €2.5bn fortune, and the business he has managed since 1968 registered an impressive growth over the last three years, increasing its market value by over 200%.
Lower in the ranking, 74-year-old Belmiro de Azevedo, owner of Portuguese conglomerate Sonae, has been listed as the 1,153rd wealthiest person, as he has control over a €1bn fortune, even if his wealth dropped one third from its value one year ago after the sharp decline in the conglomerate’s stocks.
Far from what seems the modest reality of Portugal’s businessmen by comparison, the Forbes list was topped by the Mexican Carlos Slim for the third consecutive year, even if the magazine noted a yearly fall of €5bn due to the devaluation of his telecom business America Movil. The 72-year-old billionaire is worth €69bn, €9bn short of Portugal’s €78bn financial rescue package signed in May 2011.
“I’m not rich – I’m just hardworking”. This was the clever reply given by Portuguese businessman Américo Amorim – referred to by the media in Portugal as the “king of cork” -, when newspaper Jornal de Negócios asked him if he would accept a new tax on the wealthy. Even if the richest man in Portugal does not view himself as rich, Forbes has recently placed him in 242nd place in the 2012 ranking of the wealthiest people on the planet. Amorim began his rise after entering the cork business his family founded in 1870, Corticeira Amorim, and turned it into a holding comprising several stakes in banks such as Spanish Banco Popular or Angolan Banco BIC, which recently reached an agreement with the Portuguese government to buy the bailed-out bank BPN. Like any other billionaire, Amorim diversified and did not place all his eggs in the one basket, such as his cork business or even banks: the investor is one of the main shareholders of the oil and gas company Galp Energia, owing 33% of the multinational, and is also the owner of 25% of the luxury brand Tom Ford. Not bad for someone who does not consider himself rich. Name: Américo Amorim Age: 77 Estimated wealth: €4.4bn
Alexandre Soares dos Santos
From a small shop in Lisbon’s Chiado district, opened in 1792 by the Galician Jerónimo Martins, to today’s retail operation, the company has made a long way. Soares dos Santos managed to create an empire from what was once a small family business. Alexandre Soares dos Santos, more of a classical manager than your typical maverick who builds an empire from scratch, took the lead of retailer Jerónimo Martins in 1968 after the death of his father, Francisco Soares dos Santos. Prior to taking over the family business he had had a successful career in Unilever. Since then, Soares dos Santos has turned Jerónimo Martins into one of the most valuable retail businesses in Portugal, following a very focused business model based on learning from previous mistakes. After a bad experience in Brazil with the supermarket chain Sé, sold in 2002, and the sellout of non-strategic assets like the investment in the telecom OniWay, JM entered into safe, thoroughly studied investments such as Poland’s hard discount chain Biedronka, now responsible for the greatest slice of JM’s earnings, and the renewal of the brand Pingo Doce, one of the main supermarket chains in Portugal. Name: Elísio Alexandre Soares dos Santos Age: 77 Estimated wealth: €2.5bn
Belmiro de Azevedo
Belmiro is not only one of the wealthiest men in the country, but also the first self-made billionaire to have emerged after the revolution in 1974, when many of Portugal’s established millionaires lost nearly everything in its aftermath. This son of a carpenter, the eldest of eight, experienced a setback in the beginning of his life, having failed at school in Year One. Since then, it seems Azevedo has made up for this blemish: the now president of the Sonae conglomerate managed to build himself an empire in retail, real estate and telecommunications, independent from Lisbon’s lobbies. After entering Sonae in 1965, then just a small business in wood panels, the company grew under Belmiro’s lead to become the largest private conglomerate in Portugal, after he took control of the company in 1985, when Sonae went public. Belmiro, a discreet businessman with a very low-profile public life, has three children: Nuno, Cláudia, and Paulo de Azevedo who is Sonae’s current CEO, after his father handed him the company’s reins in 2007. Name: Belmiro de Azevedo Age: 74 Estimated wealth: €1bn
(Photograph: José Sena Goulão/Lusa)