Eike Batista, Brazil’s richest man before the 2013 collapse of his energy and commodities empire, said he renegotiated 75 billion reais ($24 billion) of debt with creditors, allowing him to get a fresh start.
“I was generous, instead of fighting for five years,” the 58-year-old former billionaire told Brazilian network RedeTV! in an interview Friday. “I want to rebuild everything again, that’s why I am back.”
After making him one of the wealthiest people in the world, Batista’s startups -- from oil to mining and port developing -- flopped amid mounting debt, lower-than-expected revenue and an investor-confidence crisis. Four of the six listed units he founded were forced into bankruptcy protection. The onetime speedboat racer has been selling assets to repay debt since late 2013 as creditors foreclosed on collateral.
Wearing his signature shiny gray suit with pink tie, Batista reappeared on the TV sets he used to frequent during his heyday to shrug off accusations of having deceived minority shareholders of his projects.
“There were several that earned a lot,” he said, denying he had lied to investors. “We created a lot of wealth.”
Once the favorite of Brazil’s political and corporate elite, Batista remains the country’s most famous businessmen, with more than 1.3 million followers on his Twitter account. His downfall -- one of the largest personal and financial collapses in history -- triggered charges by Brazilian prosecutors last year that he illegally dumped shares of his oil company using privileged information. In March, Brazil’s market regulator fined him 1.4 million reais for breaching rules in four cases involving his companies.
During the interview, Batista denied wrongdoing.
“I invested a lot in oil, unfortunately most of my wealth, and the productivity wasn’t there,” he said. “I remained there until the end.”
Batista, who at his peak was worth more than $30 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, said he paid his last debt with Brazil’s national development bank on Monday, adding that he doesn’t owe anything else to the lender known as BNDES after settling a loan for his Gloria hotel in Rio. The bank didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment on Batista’s statement during weekend hours.
“Eike Batista zeroed his debt,” the entrepreneur said about himself, adding that creditors and the banks have taken all the assets he gave as loan collateral. “Now he has some wealth to start up.”