Joseph Safra, banker with $85 billion empire, dies at 82


Joseph Safra, one of many world’s richest bankers who constructed an empire spanning continents with over $85 billion in banking belongings, has died. He was 82.

Safra died of pure causes on Wednesday in Sao Paulo, Banco Safra stated in an announcement.

Safra, whose household dynasty started its world banking affect by financing camel-caravan merchants within the Ottoman Empire, expanded its attain into New York and Europe although Safra Nationwide Financial institution of New York, Financial institution J Safra Sarasin, and the household flagship, Sao Paulo-based Banco Safra. His $2.3 billion actual property empire consists of 660 Madison Avenue and The Gherkin in London.

Joseph Safra had been battling with illness for some time and his three sons were gradually taking on larger roles in his businesses.

Joseph Safra had been battling with sickness for a while and his three sons had been steadily taking over bigger roles in his companies.


Famously media-shy, Safra discreetly constructed the multinational banking juggernaut by serving wealthy purchasers and massive corporations, orchestrating essential acquisitions and navigating crises each inside his household and his house nation of Brazil. Safra’s fortune is valued at $17.6 billion, in keeping with the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making him the Latin American nation’s second-richest man.

Joseph Yacoub Safra was born in 1938, in Beirut, Lebanon, to a Jewish banking clan with roots in Aleppo, Syria. He was the youngest of 9 kids to Jacob Safra, a banker, and his spouse Esther.

Safra’s great-uncle, Ezra, began the household enterprise, and Jacob Safra expanded to Lebanon, earlier than the household moved to Brazil after World Struggle II. Banco Safra was established in 1957.

Joseph took over working Banco Safra collectively together with his youthful brother, Moise, after older brother Edmond left to construct banks in Europe and New York. Edmond, who offered Republic Nationwide Financial institution of New York to HSBC Holdings for $10 billion in 1999, died that 12 months in Monaco, the sufferer of arson; his nurse, former Inexperienced Beret Ted Maher, later confessed to setting the hearth.

Moise offered his stake in Grupo Safra to Joseph for an undisclosed quantity in 2006 and died eight years later from problems linked to Parkinson’s illness. The brothers had break up years earlier, with Joseph leaving to create his personal financial institution that was later folded within the household’s empire.

Safra’s legacy as a towering power in banking was complemented by his charitable giving. In Sao Paulo, the Albert Einstein and Sirio-Libanes hospitals counted Safra as a key donor. He constructed synagogues, contributed to Jewish causes by way of the Joseph Safra Basis, and donated Auguste Rodin sculptures to a Brazilian museum.

The Safra household and its companies had been recognized for warning, with Jacob famously saying: “In case you select to sail upon the seas of banking, construct your financial institution as you’d your boat, with the energy to sail safely by way of any storm.”

Safra branched out slowly, however the warning didn’t at all times forestall failure. In 1998, he based an unsuccessful cell phone firm, BCP.

Safra’s empire was additionally rocked in 2009 after the group was linked to a feeder fund for Bernie Madoff, who was sentenced within the U.S. to 150 years in jail for orchestrating a $17.5 billion Ponzi scheme.

Safra Group at present consists of Banco Safra in Brazil and Safra Nationwide Financial institution of New York. In 2011, Safra paid about $2.1 billion so as to add Sarasin, a non-public Swiss financial institution, to his assortment.

The acquisition allowed him to broaden the group’s asset administration enterprise, including to 1 trillion reais ($196 billion) in cash managed worldwide, in keeping with its web site.

“Each financial institution is sort of a youngster — you need to nurture it so it is ready to develop and thrive,“ Joseph Safra stated in a Safra Sarasin earnings report launched in 2020.

Safra had been battling with sickness for a while and his three sons, Jacob, David and Alberto, had been steadily taking over bigger roles in his companies. In 2019, Alberto determined to separate from the lender to launch his personal enterprise, ASA Investments. Now, Jacob, the oldest, runs the worldwide facet of the operations, whereas David oversees the Brazilian agency.

On the time of his dying, the billionaire’s in depth holdings included a stake in banana firm Chiquita Manufacturers Worldwide, the Gherkin, a Norman Foster-designed skyscraper in central London and a 130-room mansion in Sao Paulo.

Safra is survived by his spouse, Vicky, their 4 kids and 14 grandsons.