“The richest man in Brazil” was a title that enterprise magnate Eike Batista didn’t significantly look after. It didn’t do justice to the scope and scale of his wealth, he felt; he was aiming for one thing extra alongside the traces of “the richest man on the planet”.

And for some time, it didn’t appear an unreasonable ambition. The multi-billionaire had, in spite of everything, created a mining and enterprise empire, eloped with a prime mannequin, raced wildly costly speedboats at world champion degree, as soon as bought a minor stake in his EBX Group to an Abu Dhabi funding fund for $2bn (and one other to US conglomerate GE for $300m), and earned himself the nickname of “King Midas”. He claimed his oilfields had been price a trillion {dollars} (spoiler: they weren’t), and his private wealth and backing helped Rio de Janeiro win the bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

Eike Batista within the Brazilian Senate, twenty ninth November 2017. Picture: federal Senate, CC BY 2.0, through Wikimedia Commons

That is no rags-to-riches story, but it surely isn’t fairly a riches-to-rags one, both. Batista famously misplaced $35bn in simply two years, and sure, he’s serving a 30-year sentence (beneath home arrest at current, pending enchantment) for paying bribes to safe state authorities contracts. However in response to a July 2022 report in Folks With Cash journal, Batista is someway on the rebound, with an estimated private price of someplace between €96m and €275m, together with direct earnings, promoting partnerships, royalties, and investments.

Batista was born in 1956 within the state of Minas Gerais, within the nation’s south-east. His mom was German, his father Brazilian — the Minister of Mines and Vitality, no much less — and Batista has joint Brazilian-German nationality. He was one in every of seven kids and grew up in well-to-do cities that date again to, and mirror, Brazil’s 18th-Century gold rush. Minas Gerais is a large space which may be residence to Rio and São Paulo’s impoverished barrios, but it surely additionally has its share of opulent mansions, and tasteful baroque church buildings embellished by the celebrated sculptor Aleijadinho.

After metallurgy research in Europe (which he didn’t full — one thing which was to show vital), the younger Eike set out on the yellow brick street. Again in Brazil on the age of 23, he launched his personal firm, mining and buying and selling gold. Pure assets had been at all times his focus; the fortune he made (and misplaced) got here from mining and oil and fuel exploration.

His ventures within the Nineteen Eighties had been wildly profitable, and over the following 20 years, Batista expanded his empire. At 29, he grew to become CEO of TVX Gold, which listed on the Montreal Inventory Trade, and from 1980 to 2000 he operated eight gold mines in Brazil and Canada and a silver mine in Chile. He invested in vitality, fossil fuels, logistics, shipbuilding, actual property; by 2010, he had a group of firms beneath the umbrella of the EBX Group. (Every firm had an X in its title; Batista noticed it as an emblem for the multiplication of wealth. It labored — for some time.) He based oil and fuel firm OGX and lashed out $1bn on licenses for exploration off the Brazilian coast. Batista made Forbes journal’s billionaire record, and by 2010 was one of many world’s 10 wealthiest folks.

However there have been rumblings of discontent and mismanagement. His mining firm, MMX, bumped into hassle for failing to comply with environmental laws. In 2008, the Tupí-Guaraní tribe accused Batista’s logistics firm, LLX, of forcing them off their land on Brazil’s Atlantic coast. In 2008, police raided his places of work. Whereas the tycoon was cleared of wrongdoing, clouds had been constructing on the horizon.

By 2012, Eike Batista’s private fortune was sitting at a snug $34.5bn. Then got here falling petroleum costs in an more and more flaky home financial system, the shortcoming of OGX oilfields to fulfill manufacturing guarantees (they maxed-out at one p.c of the aim) and requires compensation of the bond debt he accrued for these exploration and manufacturing licences. In October 2013, Batista defaulted on a $45m curiosity cost. Sure, curiosity cost. The empire was tilting, if not toppling.

That “richest man in Brazil” title was misplaced within the avalanche as costs on 5 of his six publicly traded holdings plummeted. The principle catastrophe was at oil and fuel driller OGX Petroleo e Fuel, which filed for chapter — one of many greatest default functions in Latin American historical past. Eike Batista went on trial for insider buying and selling (the case was suspended after the decide was caught hooning round in one of many defendant’s luxurious automobiles), and by 2015, he was $1bn in debt. In January 2017, he was arrested for paying bribes linked with the Petrobras scandal.

Keep in mind the younger man’s aborted metallurgy research in Germany? Batista dropped-out earlier than graduating — and beneath Brazilian legislation, a college diploma would have meant a comfier life in a particular jail wing. The lazy pupil ended up sharing a Bangu penitentiary cell with six different inmates.

In 2017, he was launched and positioned beneath home arrest. Later that yr he was fined $6.3m for insider buying and selling. In 2018, he was discovered responsible of bribery and sentenced to 30 years. In 2019, he confronted additional costs of cash laundering and insider buying and selling. Batista was declared a fugitive when police raided his property in Rio de Janeiro and located he had flown to New York simply hours earlier than.

The tycoon voluntarily returned to Brazil — “a Brazilian doing my obligation” — and handed himself in to the authorities. He was taken to the Ary Franco jail for processing earlier than being transferred to Bangu on the outskirts of town. He’s at the moment beneath home arrest, awaiting that enchantment.

What about that return to wealth that Folks With Cash talked about? It comes, says the article, from “even handed inventory market investments”, a formidable actual property portfolio, an promoting contract with a cosmetics agency and different enterprise ventures. Batista has supplied to personally assist authorities sort out corruption in Brazil. He claims to have put nearly all his a reimbursement into the businesses he ran, confirmed some severe ambition, and borrowed towards his investments.

The identify of Eike Batista isn’t forgotten — and remains to be revered by many.


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