| SAO PAULO
SAO PAULO Aug 25 Antonio Ermirio de Moraes, the
businessman who helped forge Brazil's largest industrial
conglomerate, died in São Paulo after battling Alzheimer's
disease for more than a decade. He was 86.
Ermirio de Moraes, who reportedly owned about 25 percent of
Grupo Votorantim, died late on Sunday of heart failure, a source
with knowledge of the situation told Reuters. In a statement,
Grupo Votorantim said his burial will take place in São Paulo's
Morumbi cemetery on Monday.
Forbes Magazine recently recalculated his net worth to about
$3.9 billion, down from $12.7 billion last year, after
uncovering an ownership split at the conglomerate. The rest of
Grupo Votorantim is controlled by two of his siblings and their
heirs, according to Forbes.
Ermirio de Moraes was for decades the chief executive
officer and chairman of Grupo Votorantim, which owns Brazil's
largest cement and aluminum producer, a sizable operation in
mining and steel and a financial group that controls the
nation's 10th-largest bank by assets. He left Votorantim's board
and was rarely seen in public since being diagnosed with the
disease in 2001.
Now mainly led by the family's fourth generation and a team
of professional executives, Votorantim thrived during the second
half of last century, in a country marked by massive political
volatility, economic booms and busts and, especially, the burden
of hyperinflation. A biography written by longtime friend José
Pastore defined Ermirio de Moraes as a man with vision and the
toughness needed to implement business discipline in a rocky
With his death, "Grupo Votorantim loses an outstanding
leader, who was an example and inspiration to its values such as
ethics, respect and entrepreneurship," the statement said.
While his hallmark was an ability to foresee ambitious
business opportunities and execute large projects, Ermirio de
Moraes was largely respected in Brazil for his humble lifestyle
and his involvement in areas as diverse as philanthropy,
politics and theater. He sponsored the creation of a large
hospital in São Paulo, where he reportedly visited the emergency
room without warning to make sure attendance was prompt.
Antonio Ermirio de Moraes was born on June 4, 1928, in São
Paulo, the oldest of four children. His father, José Ermirio de
Moraes, founded Group Votorantim in 1918 after buying a textile
factory in the southeastern town of Sorocaba.
After studying mining at the Colorado School of Mines in the
early 1940s, he joined the group and spearheaded an expansion
into chemicals and aluminum. In the 1980s, under his
stewardship, Votorantim expanded into paper and pulp as well as
banking. Currently, Grupo Votorantim does business in more than
In 1986 he ran for governor of São Paulo, Brazil's
wealthiest and most populous state, but lost. In the late 1990s,
he wrote three plays depicting Brazil's political, ethical and
He is survived by his wife, Maria Regina, with whom he had
(Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)