Brazil's Batista not shy about rise up rich list

Thu Mar 11, 2010 5:06pm EST
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By Stuart Grudgings

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian energy entrepreneur Eike Batista, who made the biggest leap up Forbes' list of the world's richest people this year, is anything but shy about his rapid ascent into the big billionaires club.

A half-German college dropout who for years struggled to emerge from the shadow of his well-known father, Batista has long said that he wants nothing less than to be Brazil's and the world's richest person.

He took a big leap to the grander goal on Wednesday when the Forbes list showed him bolting up to 8th place as his wealth more than tripled to $27 billion from a lowly 61st place last year. He is the only Brazilian in the top ten.

Everything about the 53 year old -- from the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren sports car he keeps as decoration in his parlor to the "X" in the name of all his companies that represents wealth multiplication -- screams of unashamed ambition in a country that often frowns on untethered capitalism.

Batista, who works in a beach-front Rio office, has become the business face of Brazil's remarkable turnaround from basket case to economic powerhouse over the past decade and become one of the country's best-known personalities along the way.

"He is the person that took most advantage of this Brazil that the world is discovering now," said Francois Moreau, a former oil executive who works as an independent energy analyst in Rio.

A top-class speedboat racer who was married to a famous Rio de Janeiro Carnival queen, Batista recently dined with U.S. pop star Madonna in Rio and reportedly handed her a check over dinner for $7 million as a donation for her social projects.

"With my portfolio, I'll be Brazil's richest man next year," he told Reuters in an interview in early 2008.   Continued...