Joseph Safra, banker who was the richest Brazilian, dies at 82

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Monday, June 17, 2024

Joseph Safra, banker who was the richest Brazilian, dies at 82
In this file photo taken on November 21, 2002 Lebanese-Brazilian Joseph Safra speaks on his mobile phone as he arrives at a courthouse in Monaco for the start of the trial of former US soldier Ted Maher, accused of an arson attack that killed his brother Edmond. Joseph Safra, Brazil's richest man, died at 82 on December 10, 2020 in Sao Paulo. Pascal GUYOT / AFP.

RIO DE JANEIRO (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Joseph Safra, an immigrant from Lebanon who became Brazil’s richest person and one of the most successful bankers in the world through a lifetime of deal-making, died Dec. 10 in São Paulo, Brazil. He was 82.

The death was announced in a statement by Banco Safra, the company he led. In recent years he was treated for Parkinson’s disease, according to local press reports.

Born in Beirut into a Jewish family whose ancestors included money changers on the Ottoman Empire’s caravan routes, Safra emigrated to Brazil with his father, Jacob, after World War II and with his family, including his brothers Edmond and Moise, built a private banking empire that reached from São Paulo to Geneva to New York. Forbes magazine this month estimated Safra’s net worth at $23.2 billion.

Banco Safra is Brazil’s eighth largest private bank; its two offshoots are Safra National Bank of New York and the J. Safra Sarasin bank in Switzerland. Safra also held a stake in the banana firm Chiquita Brands International and owned the “Gherkin” skyscraper in London’s financial district as well as 660 Madison Avenue, the home of Barneys New York at East 61 Street in Manhattan.

For three decades he lived in the shadow of his higher-profile brother Edmond, a fellow multibillionaire who died at 67 in a fire set by an arsonist in a Monte Carlo penthouse in 1999. In 2006, Joseph Safra paid a reported $2.5 billion for his brother Moise’s 50% stake in Banco Safra, cementing his control of the family business. (Moise Safra died in 2014 at 79.)

Conservative but strategic, Joseph Safra surprised many in 2011 when he bought the venerable Swiss bank Sarasin (founded in 1841), doubling his assets under management. Asked why he would take such a risk, he replied: “My son, there are things you do because they are strategic. This is expensive but a good deal. It is the best place for my money to be, even better than the U.S. Treasury.”

Joseph Yacoub Safra was born Sept. 1, 1938, in Beirut to Jacob Eliahou Safra, the founder of one of the oldest banks in Lebanon, and Esther Teira Safra. After moving to Brazil, Jacob founded Banco Safra, with just seven employees, in 1955.

Joseph, the youngest of nine siblings, is said to have studied in England and worked at Bank of America in the United States before running the family business with Moise after their father died in 1963.

Safra, a deeply reserved man, was not well known among Brazilians, even as his wealth multiplied. He developed a reputation as a cunning businessman who at times took on his brothers for business advantage. He was also one of Brazil’s top philanthropists.

Moise Safra left the business in 2006 after years of wrangles with Joseph over its future. Last year, one of Joseph’s sons, Alberto, left Banco Safra after a dispute with another sibling, David. The family also fought a public battle over the will of Edmond Safra, whose death in 1999 came just weeks after he had agreed to sell his share in a New York bank to HSBC for almost $10 billion.

A prominent figure in the Jewish community of São Paulo, Joseph Safra helped fund an ornate synagogue there, the country’s largest, and helped restore Brazil’s oldest synagogue, in the city of Recife on the northeast coast. He donated money to the arts, historical preservation, hospitals and religious sites of all faiths. This year he helped finance research for a vaccine against the new coronavirus.

Safra moved to Switzerland with his wife, Vicky Safra, 10 years ago. But he frequently returned to his home in São Paulo, a 130-room mansion. He is survived by his wife; his sons Alberto, David and Jacob; a daughter, Esther; and 14 grandchildren.

In a statement, his bank said he had enjoyed collecting art and rare books and was a passionate soccer fan who would travel abroad just to watch Brazil’s national team play. “He loved to play with his grandchildren,” the statement said. “Always telling stories of his ancestors, transmitting values, tradition and culture.”

© 2020 The New York Times Company

Today's News

December 18, 2020

Tusks found in shipwreck reveal origins of elephants and impact of the ivory trade

Alligator that survived Berlin WWII bombing on display in Moscow

With an impressive roster of galleries and auction houses, Asia Week New York powers ahead in 2021

Janet Borden, Inc. opens an exhibition of signature photographs by Martin Parr

Records for Charles Alston, Wadsworth Jarrell, Augusta Savage and more in African American Art at Swann

'Fantasia,' 'Snow White,' Betty Boop, Popeye and the first golden age of animation

A private collection of important baseball memorabilia totals $6,545,625

Walker Art Center acquires new works from Minnesota-based artists

Sweeping new Arthur Dove catalogue raisonné sheds light on the early 20th-century Modernist

BRAFA galleries open for in-person viewings to replace 66th edition of the stalwart Brussels art fair

Dorothy Gill Barnes, 93, artist whose raw material came from trees, dies

Anna Boghiguian's first solo exhibition in a Belgian museum on view at S.M.A.K.

Joseph Safra, banker who was the richest Brazilian, dies at 82

A Paces Races 5-cent horse race slot machine is top lot at Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd. auction

The National Gallery of Victoria receives $20 million from The Ian Potter Foundation

Galerie Cecile Fakhoury opens an exhibition of works by Kassou Seydou

The posada must go on: Mexico celebrates Christmas against backdrop of Covid

Saving orchestras with online shows

In Miami, sugarplum dreams under the palm trees

Harold Budd, composer of spaciousness and calm, dies at 84

Venice hails UN listing for virus-hit glass bead makers

UNESCO puts Finnish sauna culture on heritage list

Even when the music returns, pandemic pay cuts will linger

A 1958 Corvette translated into modern Chinese

How Dual Citizenship Can Benefit During Global Pandemic

Employment Lawyer Can be Your Helping Power to Get Legal Right in Your Workplace.

Best AI Voiceover Tools Available Online

Top 5 Things You Need To Know Before You File a Personal Injury Lawsuit

How to Host Your Family's Own Personal Summer Camp

How Can I Become An Online Teacher Or Tutor Online?


Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful