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Brazzil - Media - August 2003

Roberto Marinho - The Most Powerful Man in Brazil

Roberto Marinho commanded a media empire and some say
that he was more powerful than the President of Brazil. Mr.
Marinho was a president maker. The chances of any candidate
becoming President of Brazil, without his support
and that of his media machine were almost nil.

Ricardo C. Amaral


Roberto Marinho, the most powerful man in Brazil since the early 1970's, died on August 6, 2003. He was 98 years old. Brazil has lost an icon, one whose work will be hard to duplicate.

Mr. Marinho did not have at his command a million men army, biological or nuclear weapons. He was a journalist, and media mogul. He commanded a media empire, and was considered the most influential man in Brazil. Some say that he was more powerful than the president of Brazil. So powerful was Mr. Marinho's media machine, that it played a significant role in the election of various presidents in Brazil. He was a president maker; the chances of any candidate becoming President of Brazil, without his support, were almost nil.

He was married since 1984 to Lily de Carvalho, his third wife. His second wife was Estela Marinho, with whom he had four children: Roberto Irineu, José Roberto, João Roberto and Paulo Roberto. In the Réveillon of 1970, Paulo Roberto died in a car accident, he was 19 years old.

The Mesbla/Globo connection

I worked for Globo TV in New York from May 1985 to May 1987 and I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Roberto Marinho on various occasions. I also worked for Mesbla Trading, a subsidiary of Mesbla S.A. from May 1987 to the early 1990's. When I was Vice President and company officer of Mesbla Trading during the 1987 to 1991 period, Marluce Dias da Silva, who is today Globo TV's general manager, was a senior executive at Mesbla in Brazil. She was the Senior Vice President of Human Resources of the corporation, and was a personal advisor to Andre De Botton; the owner of the Mesbla Empire.

In Brazil, Exame magazine is the equivalent of Business Week in the United States. On the cover of the December 17, 1997 issue, they featured a story of Marluce Dias da Silva, and her rise to be number two in the line of command of the Globo Empire in Brazil. Mr. Roberto Marinho was the owner of Globo Television in Brazil (he also owned one of the major newspapers in Brazil O Globo, a publishing empire, cable TV systems, etc). Globo TV was the 4th largest television network in the world. It also ranks as number one in Latin America, and they have on a regular basis 65 percent market share of the audience in Brazil. Globo's broadcasts can reach through their 113 affiliated companies 99.9 percent of the Brazilian audience.

Marinho was 93 years old when he passed the management of the Globo empire to his son Roberto Irineu, who was 49 years old at the time. Roberto Irineu has been working with his father since 1983.

On December 3, 1997 Marluce Dias da Silva was promoted to superintendent-executive, a position that elevated her to be second in command of the Globo empire. She had been working at Globo for six years, and she came to Globo from Mesbla S.A., in 1991. Mesbla S.A. in Brazil was equivalent to Sears/Macy's in the U.S., since Mesbla was the major department store in Brazil, but they also had the largest car dealership system for new cars, and the largest appliance company in Brazil.

Marinho Made the Rules

When I was working for Globo TV in New York, the news bureau chief was Hélio Costa. He became famous in Brazil because he was the main reporter for Globo TV reporting from New York. In 1988, he returned to Brazil and became a candidate for congress. He was elected congressman (Deputado Federal), and became an asset for Mr. Marinho's media empire.

When Mr. Costa was elected Deputado Federal, Brazil was in the process of a major revision to its Constitution. Mr. Costa became chairman of the committee that was in charge of revising all the rules regulating anything to do with the media.

It is my understanding that all the media regulation had to be approved first by Mr. Roberto Marinho, before the committee finalized its new laws regulating the media in Brazil. The media portion of the revised Constitution was tailor made for the Globo empire. That was another example of Mr. Marinho's real power in Brazil; he had clout with a capital C.

Weak Real Affects Billionaires

On October 2001, New York based monthly The Brasilians published Part lV of a series of articles that I wrote about Brazil adopting the euro as its new currency. In that article I used Mr. Marinho as an example to support my case for the adoption of the euro. Below I am quoting a portion of that article as follows:

Adoption of the euro is the only solution to fix the Brazilian economy. Today, the adoption of the euro by Brazil has become a critical issue and one of the few options available to save the Brazilian economy from further decline. A weak real is affecting even the fortunes of billionaires.

As we can see by the table below, even billionaires are affected by this currency and economic debasement of the Brazilian economy. Based on Forbes Magazine's annual list of billionaires, which is published on the first week of July of each year, the following is the ranking and the estimated net worth of Mr. Roberto Marinho, a Brazilian businessman who made the list the last two years:
Name  Date  Rank  Net Worth (US$ bil.)
Roberto Marinho  as of 07/03/2000   42  6.4
Roberto Marinho  as of 07/03/2001  336  1.5

The major culprit for this decrease in wealth is the weak currency—the real. This unsound currency undermines the entire economy of Brazil including the economic activities of such companies as TV Globo Network (Roberto Marinho is the owner of this communications empire in Brazil, which includes the major television network in Latin America, cable TV, radio stations, and one of the major publishing companies in Brazil—also including a major newspaper and magazines). Because of the combination of a falling currency (the Brazilian real), and a television and newspaper advertising slump during the year 2001, it is very possible that Mr. Roberto Marinho will not make next year's Forbes list of billionaires.

The Brazilian economy will be in better shape in the future if Brazil adopts the euro and the Brazilian economy integrates with the Euroland economy. Brazil and Brazilians will become better off under the Euro system than if Brazil tries to continue with its own currency. If Brazil continues on its current path and doesn't fix this currency problem the end result might be a revolution in Brazil, and a possible return to a military dictatorship.

You can read about many of my articles regarding Brazil adopting the euro at the following website addresses:

June 2003 - article: "How to Make the Real Count"


June 2002 - article: "Only the Euro can Save Brazil"


As I predicted in my article in 2001, Mr. Roberto Marinho was not listed in the Forbes list of billionaires in July 2003. The Marinho family has the power and clout to start a major campaign in Brazil to convince the Brazilian people that it is time for Brazil to adopt the euro. If they don't do it, I am afraid that the Marinhos also will lose its fortune as the De Botton family did in the late 1990's.

The De Botton family (the owners of Mesbla S.A.) also were billionaires in the mid 1980's, when I worked for them. But in the late 1990's they lost their entire fortune. I hope the Marinhos don't follow that same path, and that they find a way to return Globo to its glory days.

With the deepest sympathy I give my condolences to the members of the Marinho family, and to Mr. Marinho's three sons; Roberto Irineu Marinho, João Roberto Marinho and José Roberto Marinho.

Mr. Roberto Marinho, all Brazilians will miss you—rest in peace!

Ricardo C. Amaral was born in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. He attended Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey, USA, where he received a B.A. degree in Economics and later an MBA degree in Finance. Mr. Amaral has an extensive investment and international business background. He is among a very few remaining living descendants of both José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva (The Patriarch of Brazilian Independence) and his brother Martim Francisco Ribeiro de Andrada - the founding fathers of Brazil. The author welcomes comments at amaral@alumni.fdu.edu




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