The good times are rolling for Brazil. South America's largest country is experiencing record lows for unemployment, and its currency, the real, has strengthened against the dollar. With recent oil and gas discoveries and winning bids for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, Brazil's future looks brighter than ever. As part of the four countries that make up BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China), Brazil is expected to become wealthier than most of the current major economic powers by 2050 as a supplier of raw materials to the world. Brazil's billionaires are a reflection of the country's growing prosperity as it continues to build wealth through diverse industries. (More than 70 years after his death, this man remains one of the great figures of Wall Street - check out J.D. Rockefeller: From Oil Baron To Billionaire.)
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- Eike Batista
Brazil's richest person has $27 billion in assets and was ranked number eight on Forbes' list of the world's billionaires in 2010. Just a year before, in March, 2009, his net worth was $7.5 billion. Batista is a self-made billionaire who earned his money in the iron-ore mining and oil industries. Now 53, he started a gold mine when he was 23 years old. Batista suffered a public relations nightmare in 2009 when police raided his Rio de Janerio home on allegations that he smuggled gold and had unfairly acquired a railroad. The charges didn't stick, and Batista is now focused on his goal to be the richest man in the world. He wants to have a net worth of $100 billion by 2020. In November 2010, Batista announced his desire to build an Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL) electronics factory in Brazil.
- Dorothea Steinbruch
Brazil's richest woman inherited her money from her late husband who controlled one of Brazil's largest steel producers. The company, Companhia Siderurgica Nacional ADR (NYSE:SID), was state-owned before the Steinbruch purchased it. Steinbruch's son, Benjamin, runs the company. Her other son, Ricardo, is chairman of the family's other firm, Banco Fibra. Steinbruch and family are worth $5.5 billion, which makes them the 136th richest people in the world.
- Abilio dos Santos Diniz
Grocery shopping is a mundane chore for most, but for Diniz it's a multi billion dollar enterprise. The chairman of Brazil's largest retailer is worth $3 billion. He inherited his wealth, but has grown it through smart business moves, including his orchestration of the merger between his company, Pao Acucar, and another retail giant, Casas Bahia. He sold a controlling share in his company in 2005 to a French supermarket chain for $860 million. Beyond his wealth, he is well known for being kidnapped as part of a political sabotage on the morning of Brazil's 1989 presidential election.
- Jorge Paulo Lemann, Marcel Herrmann Telles, Carlos Alberto Sicupira
The drink of choice for this trio of Brazilian billionaires is beer. They made their fortune as shareholders in Anheuser-Busch Inbev (ADR) (NYSE:BUD). The men also control Brazilian retailer Lojas Americanas. The partners made headlines in 2010 for their part in a deal to purchase Burger King for $3.3 million through their 3G Capital Management group.
Lemann, a Harvard graduate, was number 48 on Forbes' Billionaires List, and is the third richest man in Brazil with a net worth of $11.5 billion. Telles has climbed the Forbes' World's Richest People list for three years, going from number 432 in 2007 to 152 in 2010, with his wealth increasing from $2.2 billion to $5.1 billion. Aside from his projects with Lemann and Sicupira, he also sits on the committee of Brazil's largest private bank. Sicupira is a former investment banker with a net worth of 4.5 billion. (We provide six tips for creating a winning business in a losing economy - check out Starting A Small Business In Tough Economic Times.)
- Joseph Safra
Number 64 on the Forbes' billionaires list, Safra, is laughing all the way to the bank. That's where he keeps and makes his money. He bought out his brother for $2 million dollars to gain complete ownership of Brazil's 11th largest bank, Banco Safra, as well as Safra National Bank of New York and Banque Safra-Luxembourg. The 71-year-old has a net worth of $10 billion.
- Guilherme Peirao Leal & Luiz Seabra
Men and makeup don't usually mix, but for Brazilian billionaires Leal and Seabra, there is cash in cosmetics. The team has earned fortunes of more than $2 billion apiece through their Avon inspired firm. Their products are sold throughout Brazil and seven other Latin American companies. Leal is also an environmentalist who works with World Wildlife Fund of Brazil, and is an advocate of sustainable business and biodiversity.
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The Bottom Line
As the world watches the transformation of Brazil into a leading economic power, the country's billionaires are ambassadors of the growing prosperity of the South American nation.
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