From Grace to Grass, This Entrepreneur Lost US$35Bn and Ended up in Prison

Eike Fuhrken Batista da Silva is a Brazilian-German serial entrepreneur who made and lost a fortune in mining and oil and gas industries. He engaged in a quest to promote Brazil’s infrastructure with large-scale projects, such as the Porto do Açu, which eventually bankrupted his companies.

He was chairman of Brazilian conglomerate EBX Group, which was formerly the parent company of five companies traded on the BOVESPA‘s Novo Mercado, a special segment of the São Paulo stock market. These five companies were: OGX (oil and gas), MPX (energy), LLX (logistics), MMX (mining), and OSX (offshore services and equipment). Nowadays, EBX advises new startup companies and tries to rebuild itself again.

In early 2012, Batista had a net worth of US$35 billion, ranking him the seventh wealthiest person in the world, and the richest in Brazil. By July 2013, his wealth had plummeted to $200 million due to his debts and his company’s falling stock prices. Bloomberg reported in January 2014 that Batista “has a negative net worth.” Forbes and Folha de S.Paulo quoted Batista in September 2014, stating that his net worth was –$1 billion. Batista is currently under arrest and has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for bribing disgraced Rio de Janeiro governor Sérgio Cabral, in order to secure public contracts.

In 2011, Batista was listed by Forbes magazine as the 8th richest person in the world and the richest person in Brazil as well as on the entire continent. His wealth was at one time estimated at US$30 billion. Batista was also featured in Bloomberg Markets magazine as the only Brazilian on the list of the 50 most influential people in global finance, published for the first time in September 2011. The magazine focused on people “whose comments move markets; whose deals set the value of companies or securities; whose ideas and policies shape corporations, governments and economies”.

At the end of 2010, the magazine ranked Batista as the 58th most powerful person in the world, placing him as Brazil’s most powerful person after the then-president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff. The newspaper Folha de S.Paulo described Batista as a “self-made man“, an entrepreneur with a fortune acquired primarily through his own efforts, not inheritance.

The top-ranked Brazilian on the Forbes magazine list in March 2008 was Antônio Ermírio de Moraes, in 77th place with a family estate of US$10 billion. Another 17 Brazilians were on the list, including Batista (who in 2008 said his goal was to become the richest man in the world in five years). In 2008 Batista’s fortune was estimated at US$6.6 billion and he was ranked at the 142nd place on the list of the richest men in the world. By 2009, he had moved up to the 61st position and was considered the richest man in Brazil.

According to the Brazilian weekly magazine Época, Batista was one of the 100 most influential men in Brazil of 2010. IstoÉ magazine also listed Batista as one of the 100 most influential people in 2010. In 2011, Batista was included in the 1,000 CEOs ranking by Dinheiro magazine.

On 26 July 2013, Bloomberg News reported his losses as “historic.” The losses can be attributed largely to the downturn in the precious metals mining industry, as well as a catastrophic collapse of Batista’s OGX — which had claimed would pump 750,000 barrels of oil a day, delivering only 15,000 barrels per day. Other economic issues and management decisions factored in as well. Bloomberg News likened events leading to the failure as a “Perfect Storm.”

He publicly boasted several times that he would overtake Mexican baron Carlos Slim to become the world’s richest man by 2015. However, akin to Japanese businessman Masayoshi Son, who lost over 90% of his fortune in the dotcom boom of 2000; Batista’s wealth decreased by over 100% between March 2012 and January 2014, from a peak net worth of $32 billion to a negative net worth. Many business and finance-related media, such as Forbes magazine and Businessweek, are still in the process of concluding whether Eike Batista holds the record for having been the fastest destroyer of wealth. Eike Batista has written in Brazilian newspapers about the loss of his fortune and fall from billionairedom, stated that he regrets listing his companies in the stock markets, and that, in retrospect, a private equity model of financing his ventures would have been better. Batista pledged that he would leave no creditor unpaid, and would fulfill all of his debt obligations.

On 9 February 2015, Brazilian police seized cash and seven cars, including a white Lamborghini Aventador, from Batista.

In January 2017, Brazilian authorities issued a detention order for Batista and eight other individuals as part of Operation Car Wash (PortugueseOperação Lava Jato), a high-profile $100 million money laundering investigation. Batista returned from New York and was detained in the maximum security prison in Bangu. On April 28, 2017, Supreme Court judge Gilmar Mendes ordered Batista’s release pending trial. Batista had been charged with making $16.5 million in bribes to the former governor of Rio de Janeiro state.

On July 3, 2018, Batista was convicted of bribing former Rio de Janeiro governor Sergio Cabral for the purpose of obtaining state government contracts, paying Cabral US$16.6 million, and was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment. Batista’s lawyer, Fernando Martins, expects to appeal the verdict. 



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