The Elusive Billionaire: Who is Brazil’s Jorge Paolo Lemann?


Stella Artois, Budweiser, Corona, Skol, Brahma, Bohemia, Antarctica, Polar, Norteña, Bud Light, Quilmes. All these brands of beers – and many others – are part of AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer. Their owner? The Brazilian, Jorge Paulo Lemann, 75.  Lemann is Brazil’s richest man, but little is known about him. The former banker (and former professional tennis player) doesn`t like to flaunt his wealth.

 “Money is just a way of measuring whether the business is doing well or not, but money itself doesn`t fascinate me,” he says.

Indeed, by his own admission, Lemann never dreamt of becoming the business mogul he’s become. To put this in context, he is currently the 26th wealthiest person on Earth, with his current fortune estimated at $ 25 billion. Through sport, he extracted some lessons for future use in business. “Tennis requires a lot of discipline, a lot of training, a lot of competition. You learn that to be good, you have to train and like much of what you do. Gains and losses and when defeated, you must assess where you can improve. In business, my attitude was one of strength, training, focus and that when there are opportunities, you need to grab them”, says Lemann.

When the entrepreneur realized he would not become one of the ten greatest tennis players in the world, he gave up the racket. Not content with being second best in any industry, he concentrated his energy to the business world, where he became an icon.

Lemann playing tennis

In 2004 he created the investment fund 3G Capital with his partners Marcel Telles and Alberto Sicupira, and in time the Brazilian acquired the Budweiser and Stella Artois beers, a network of fast-food Burger Kings, and the Heinz brand.  Recently, Heinz joined the US-owned Kraft Foods and now forms the fifth largest food and beverage company in the world. The deal turned Lemann into a celebrity in North America and the Brazilian businessman found himself quoted in numerous magazines, newspapers and websites.

Jorge Paolo Lemann and the Future

Yet, over the past 25 years, Lemann has had another focus: his legacy in Brazil. This arguably is his greatest cause: to improve education in his home country. The first initiatives began in the 1990s culminating in the Lemann Foundation, an entity created in 2002 with the aim of improving public education in Brazil. Lemann has also been an active participant in scholarship programmes designed to offer gifted Brazilian students places in US universities, with some schools as prestigious as Stanford and Columbia. Lemann is known for his ability to sow the seeds of big business and realise them with great profitability. In the words of the great man:

“to dream big and dream small is the same amount of work…so dream big”.


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