August 1, 2021

After Burger King, Brazilian ogre Jorge Paulo Lemann takes on the beer market

Jorge Paulo Lemann is like a baseline player. Of those who have their opponent wearing down, returning the ball to the other side of the net with patience and method. To seize SAB Miller, the world number two in the beer market, the 76-year-old Brazilian, main shareholder of sector leader AB InBev – and former tennis champion – was not afraid to use patience. But the racket didn’t shake in the tie-break. After four successive refusals, SAB Miller accepted, on October 13, the principle of an offer which values ​​it 96 billion euros. AB inBev now has until October 28 to formally file it.

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At the head of a colossal fortune estimated at 83.7 billion reais (19.2 billion euros), the man born in Rio de Janeiro on August 26, 1939, of Swiss immigrant parents, had made money. acquisition of the brewer of South African origin listed in London a real obsession.

A fixed idea and to say the least curious on the part of this skinny ascetic who refrains from alcohol and very rarely allows himself a red meat. “He is an extremely disciplined person. Every morning, he gets up at dawn to play a game of tennis. And he doesn’t like to lose ”, smiles Cristiane Correa, author of an unauthorized biography, the big dream (Primea Pessoa editions, not translated), on this very discreet man.

An object of fascination for Brazilian students, Mr. Lemann is however not described as a particularly talented man. “His gift is above all to copy and find the right people to perform”, continues Mme Correa. He draws his great inspiration from the United States, Harvard and American companies. Among his models claimed, Sam Walton, the founder of the American distribution chain Wal-Mart, a past master in the art of putting his suppliers under pressure. Its leitmotivs: the culture of meritocracy and the aggressive reduction of costs.

From the beaches of Rio to the Harvard campus

Employees of the Anheuser-Busch brewer have bitter memories of it, says Mme Correa in his book. When the American beer Budweiser was bought by the Belgian-Brazilian InBev in 2008, the spoiled employees, accustomed to frequenting amusement parks at the expense of the company, had to comply with the “3G culture”, known as from the Brazilian billionaire’s investment fund: business trips in eco class and reservations in barely decent hotels, sometimes with the need to share a room with a colleague.

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