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#387 Joao Moreira Salles $4.84B

Random fact: Joao's Piaui magazine was inspired by The New Yorker.


Moreira Salles shares a majority stake in CBMM, the miner that controls most of the world's output of niobium. The closely held company is based in Araxa, Brazil and supplies niobium, a metal used to strengthen steel, to about 50 countries. His family also shares control of Itau Unibanco, a Sao Paulo-based bank.

As of June 18, 2018:
Last change -$47.4M (-1.0%)
YTD change -$828M (-14.6%)
Industry Finance
Biggest asset ITUB3 BZ Equity
Citizenship Brazil
Age 55
Wealth Inherited
View net worth over:   Max 1 year 1 quarter 1 month 1 week

Relative Value

Joao Moreira Salles's net worth of $4.84B can buy ...

troy ounces of gold
barrels of crude oil

... and is equivalent to ...

of the GDP of the United States
of the total wealth of the 500 richest people in the world
of the top 100 U.S. college endowments
of the top 200 U.S. executives’ total awarded compensation
of U.S. existing home sales
times the median U.S. household income

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Net Worth Summary

Private asset
Public asset
Misc. liabilities
Confidence rating:

Each of the four Moreira Salles brothers holds an equal share of the family's 12.8 percent stake in Itau Unibanco. The bank was created in 2008 when Itau, owned by the Villela and Setubal families, acquired Unibanco, which was founded by the brothers' grandfather, Joao. They control the interest through the Cia. E. Johnston holding company, based in Sao Paulo, according to filings with Brazil's securities regulator.

They also acquired stakes in Alpargatas in 2017, which are held through funds of their Cambuhy family office. Pedro holds a 22 percent stake and each of the other brothers hold a 7 percent stake, according to regulatory filings.

CBMM reported sales of $1.5 billion in 2017, according to Valor Economico. The valuation is based on calculated price-to-sales and enterprise value-to-Ebitda multiples of Anglo American’s former niobium unit. The unit was sold in 2016 for $1.5 billion and the multiples used here were determined with reference to this sale and Anglo America's 2015 financial results. The valuation is updated based on the niobium spot price. CBMM is the world's largest niobium miner and sells to about 50 countries, according to its website.

The value of his cash investments is based on an analysis of dividend income, stake sales, taxes and market performance.

Jose Vital, a spokesperson at CBMM, didn't respond to requests for comment.


Birthdate: 1962
Family: Unmarried, No children

The Moreira Salles family fortune traces back to 1924, when Joao Moreira Salles opened a banking department at a store in Brazil's Minas Gerais state, where he sold food, drinks and household goods. The operation soon became independent, and financed the expansion of coffee plantations. Joao's son Walther took the helm in 1940, when the family took over two rival banks. He gradually built it into what came to be known as Unibanco.

At the same time, Walther became influential in politics. He served two one-year stints as ambassador to the U.S. in the 1950s, and was finance minister for three years in the early 1960s. While serving as ambassador, he met U.S. Navy Admiral Arthur W. Radford. In 1965, Radford, then a boardmember at the mining company Molycorp, convinced Walther to buy a controlling stake in a niobium deposit in Brazil that the company hoped to develop. It would prove a wise bet. The element is used to strengthen 10 percent of all steel produced today. The company, known as CBMM, controls 85 percent of the world's niobium production.

Walther Moreira Salles was also a member of global high society, hosting guests such as Henry Ford II, Nelson Rockefeller, Aristotle Onassis and Mick Jagger at his mansion in Rio de Janeiro. His first wife, Helene Tourtois, the mother of his son Fernando, was the daughter of the creator of Chanel 5 perfume. His second wife, Elisa Goncalves, gave birth to three more sons: Fernando, Pedro and Walther Jr. She died after jumping out of a window in 1988.

Walther stepped down as chairman of Unibanco in the early 1990s, and founded the Instituto Moreira Salles, which funds cultural programs in Brazil. His former mansion in Rio became its headquarters, and is open to the public. When Walther died in 2001, he bequeathed his stake in Unibanco to his four sons. Itau Unibanco was created in 2008 when Itau, owned by the Villela and Setubal families, acquired Unibanco. The deal created Latin America's largest lender by market value.

Today, Pedro and Fernando lead the family's business interests. Pedro, who suffers from muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, is Itau Unibanco's chairman, while Fernando holds that position at CBMM. The other two brothers lead lives in the arts. Walther Jr. is famous for directing the movies The Motorcycle Diaries and On the Road. Joao is a documentary filmmaker, as well as the founder and publisher of the magazine Piaui, which was inspired by The New Yorker.

  • 1924 Businessman Joao Moreira Salles opens a banking department.
  • 1940 Family acquires two rival banks; son Walther takes the helm.
  • 1968 Joao Moreira Salles dies, leaving control to Walther.
  • 1991 Walther steps down as chairman, maintaining honorary chair.
  • 2000 China buys niobium from family's CBMM for the first time.
  • 2001 Walther Moreira Salles dies, leaving Unibanco to his four sons.
  • 2006 Family buys out last of partner Molycorp's stake in CBMM.
  • 2008 Itau buys Unibanco, creating Latin America's largest bank.