Brazil’s Batista Brothers Are Out of Jail And Worth $6 Billion
· Their JBS dominates global meatpacking as demand soars
· Back to acquisitions, they focus on basics while diversifying
By Felipe Marques and James Attwood, Bloomberg
July 15, 2021
Just under four years ago, brothers Joesley and Wesley Batista were in Brazilian prison cells with concrete bunk beds, their multibillion-dollar meat empire near collapse in one of the world’s biggest corporate corruption scandals.
Today, they’re not only free men but their company, JBS, is worth three times what it was then, operates in 20 countries and controls a quarter of U.S. beef processing. The brothers, worth $5.8 billion, hold stakes in companies with $28 billion in assets, towering over all other meat barons.
Their Lazarus-like revival comes partly from the one-two punch of pandemic food prices -- short supply, soaring demand -- that is making many in food rich right now. But it’s more than that. It’s a testament to bare-knuckles political deal making, ruthless efficiency (like using every inch of a carcass) while pivoting to plant-based alternatives and eyeing a U.S. listing.
“JBS is a prime example of the Brazilian way of doing business,” said Luis Andre Azevedo, a professor at Fundacao Getulio Vargas’s law school, pointing to the company’s deep, longstanding political connections.
The real trick has been not only mining those connections -- but betraying them. In 2017, the brothers turned on a network of politicians they’d spent years cultivating through legal and off-the-books donations. What followed was a scandal so widespread that it led to “Joesley Day,” one of the worst market routs in Brazil’s history...