Who is Zé Mineiro, the founder who returns to command JBS

Dealing with large volumes of cash, in suitcases and bags, is a tradition in the Batista family, owners of J&F, the largest animal protein business group on the planet, shaken by the millionaire corruption in its relationship with politicians and a series of messes with recordings and denunciations.

The arrest of his sons, Wesley and Joesley, retired the octogenarian founder of JBS, José Batista Sobrinho, known as Zé Mineiro, from retirement at the weekend. He returns to command the business group following a unanimous decision by the JBS Board of Directors.

In an institutional JBS video, Zé Mineiro says that the beginning was like this: he carried “suitcases of money” from one place to another to buy, slaughter and sell cattle in the interior of Goiás. There was no accounting. “My balance was a diary under my arm and the lump (of money) I carried in my pocket”. The eldest son, José Batista Júnior (known as Júnior Friboi) tells in a video that his father would come home and “get his children to collect the money, note by note”. “We kept passing around the crumpled bills, counting them, tying them up neatly, everything was very neat, writing the values on the packages,” says Júnior.

Zé Mineiro was born in Alfenas, Minas Gerais, and received his nickname in Goiás, when he moved with his parents, at the age of 12, to the small municipality of Urataí. In 1953 he entered the meat business opening a small slaughterhouse with his brother, in the city of Anápolis, Casa de Carnes Mineira. The brother bought the cattle and Zé Mineiro did the slaughtering. They started by killing and selling just one animal a day.

 

 

In Anápolis, the firstborn of Dona Flora's six children, José Batista Júnior, was born. The others are Wesley, Joesley, Valére, Vanessa and Vivianne.
Pioneer of Brasilia

In 1957, attracted by tax incentives – four years free of taxes – the first “Batista brothers” decided to leave for Brasília and take advantage of the business opportunities in the construction of the new federal capital. The contract with the public authorities (look at that…) changed everything. “It was a time that boosted me, that gave me a boost. My assignment was to supply meat to construction sites. I delivered meat all day long, supplying about 12 companies, more or less.” “I feel responsible for part of the construction of Brasília, I was one of the pioneers”, says Zé Mineiro.

 

In 1970, he moved again, back to Goiás to the municipality of Formosa, where he founded the first unit of the Friboi meat processing plant. The choice of the name Friboi, later renamed JBS (founder's initials) was a guess from a friend, from Araguari. “My friend said: it has to be a beef slaughterhouse. Fri-boi. Friboi. I said wow, ok”, reports José Batista Sobrinho.

 

 

Under the command of Zé Mineiro's sons, and with a closer and more promiscuous relationship with power, JBS became the conglomerate J&F Investimentos which, before the crisis broke, operated in more than 150 countries and employed 230 thousand people. The multinationalization of JBS occurred between 2007 and 2010, when the Lula government, via BNDES, injected more than R$ 8 billion for the group to make international acquisitions. On the other hand, as seen in the courts and in the allegations, the Batista brothers returned money to politicians via bribes and campaign financing. BNDES remains a partner in the company, with 21% of the shares.

To save his family's business empire, José Batista Sobrinho will have to count money again, like the old days, note by note. JBS's leniency agreement with the Federal Public Ministry provides for the payment of 10.3 billion reais to compensate for the damage to public coffers, paid in installments over 25 years. To this end, JBS is selling assets in series – Alpargatas, Vigor, Eldorado Celulose and operations in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Ireland are gone.

 

 

And what can Zé Mineiro offer at the head of J&F, at the worst moment in the company's more than 60 years of history? JBS' institutional video gives a hint of a possible answer. “To succeed in life, a person has to have determination, something different. And as I studied very little, what I can offer is determination, punctuality and determination.”

In the challenge of refounding JBS, octogenarian Zé Mineiro will really need all the determination possible, but, this time, without the blatant benefits from public authorities that made such a difference in catapulting the company, in Brazil and abroad.

Source: Agrolink

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