Meet The Richest Man In Brazil—Who Just Partnered With Warren Buffett To Buy Heinz

Jorge Paulo Lemann Burger King

Yesterday Berkshire Hathaway disclosed that it would buy Heinz in a $28 billion deal, but they’re not doing it alone.

For a buy this big, Buffett enlisted the help of Brazil’s most famous banker and arguably fiercest dealmaker, Jorge Lemann.

Over the course of his life, Lemann has gone from journalist to national tennis champion to banker and now billionaire investor.

Last year, he overtook Eike Batista to become Brazil’s richest man. In terms of their business style, however, Lemann and Batista have little in common. Where Batista is a flashy playboy who’s vowed to become to the richest man in the world, Lemann is a silent killer. He’s known for a strict management style, and he doesn’t seem to be in the game for the money (from Bloomberg):

“Money is simply a way of measuring if the business is going well or not, but money in and of itself doesn’t fascinate me,” Lemann said in January 2008, according to an interview published in HSM Management magazine. He declined to comment for this story.

That says a lot.

Lemann was born in Rio in 1939.

His father was a Swiss businessman who immigrated to the country in the 1920s.

He left Brazil for Harvard, and earned his bachelors degree in economics in 1961.

Lemann still has a great relationship with Harvard helping Brazilian students study there and setting up scholarships:

Lemann has generously supported cross-cultural initiatives at Harvard University, including the Brazil Studies Program and Brazil Office of the David Rockefeller centre for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS), for over a decade. He established the Lemann Visiting Scholars program and, more recently, the Lemann Fellows program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard School of Public Health, the Harvard Kennedy School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He has actively engaged with the 38 students who comprise the first five cohorts of Lemann Fellows, as well as with students he has supported at Harvard College, Harvard Business School and elsewhere at the University.

After Harvard, Lemann's life was a mixed bag. He trained at Credit Suisse for a while and worked as a journalist.

Lemann worked as a business columnist for Jornal do Brasil. It's the 3rd oldest Brazilian paper in existence.

He was also a tennis champion.

Lemann was Brazil's national champion 5 times. He represented Brazil and Switzerland (he has dual citizenship) in the Davis Cup.

He even made it to Wimbledon.

In 1971 he bought a brokerage called Garantia.

Lemann wanted to turn it into Brazil's Goldman Sachs by adopting the American firm's partnership model. A few years later his current partners, Carlos Alberto Sicupira and Marcel Herrmann Telles, joined him (they are also now billionaires, by the way).

The trio, known as the 'Three Musketeers' would go on to buy Lojas Americanas SA, a now huge chain of retail stores in Brazil in, 1982.

In 1989, Lemann and co. acquired beer company Cia. Cervejaria Brahma, foreshadowing things to come.

Check out a commercial Megan Fox made for the company:

Along the way, he built Garantia into a powerhouse, eventually selling it for $675 million in 1998.

The market crashed just weeks after Lemann bought the bank, but he didn't care. He grew the bank for years until more than $100 million in trading losses pushed him to sell.

From the Guardian:

A spell in New York watching new derivatives trading operations at Bankers Trust proved influential. In 1998 Garantía was sold to Credit Suisse First Boston, for $675m (£337m).

That's when Lemann really blew up. He was nominated to the board of Gillette, where he met Warren Buffett.

He was also chair of the Latin American Advisory Board of the NYSE.

But because of his time on Gillette's board, Buffett grew to consider Lemann a good friend and calls him 'Georgie Paolo'.

In 1993, he and his partners created buy-out firm GP Investimentos and started buying and selling companies.

He's super private about his personal life, but we do know he moved to Switzerland in 1999.

Lemann moved to Zurich because there was an attempt to kidnap his children in Rio (he has five). According to the WSJ, this helped spur Brazil's armoured car industry.

All the while, GP Investimentos was growing into what would be the biggest listed private equity firm in Latin America.

5 years later AmBev merged with Belgian brewer InterBrew for $11 billion.

From The Guardian:

Presented as a merger of equals, three aristocratic Belgian families had four seats on the board, as did Lemann and his associates. The Belgians and Brazilians controlled 64% of the group in a shareholder agreement. At the time, the Brazilians paid homage to Interbrew's heritage and brands...

The Three Musketeers also sold GP Investimentos to junior partners that year.

Lemann and his partners founded an NYC based firm, 3G Capital in 2004. Three years later they merged with Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion.

In 2010 3G did another big deal with an American company, a leveraged buy-out of Burger King with the help of fellow Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista.

Sidenote: You can thank Lemann for getting rid of that creepy Burger King king, he fired the ad firm that came up with it.

The Burger King deal was a huge success.

It set the stage for Lemann's latest deal with Warren Buffett — buying Heinz.

The $28 billion deal came together in 6 weeks.

From Reuters:

'This was not a fishing expedition that turned into something. They'd done their homework,' said a second source familiar with the situation. 'They don't Mickey Mouse around...'

In order to keep the deal silent, code names were used, according to two sources. 3G was called 'goose,' Heinz was referred to as 'penguin' and Berkshire was known as 'owl.' The news release also refers to the buyer as 'Hawk Acquisition Holding Corp'.

All signs point to more deals from Lemann, people say that he changed the way business is done in Brazil.

Perhaps you prefer your billionaires with a little more risk.

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