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Eike Batista, the Man Who Lost $25 Billion in One Year

Brazil’s Eike Batista takes a beating in the commodities slump
Investors betting against him will be “caught with their pants down.” 
—Batista, on Twitter
Investors betting against him will be “caught with their pants down.” —Batista, on TwitterPhotograph by Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

A year ago, Eike Batista was Brazil’s richest man, and his goal of climbing to No. 1 in the world seemed within reach. After founding five publicly traded natural-resource companies in six years, he’d just sold a stake in his EBX Group conglomerate that valued his holdings at $34.5 billion. His companies had yet to turn a profit, so the deal, struck with an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund, was mainly a testament to Batista’s vision: an integrated empire of companies, shipping oil and iron ore to China from a port he was building near Rio de Janeiro. “I think Eike is a special kind of entrepreneur,” said Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff during a visit to the port project in April. “He’s a person who comes up with extremely ambitious dreams and then seeks to fulfill them.”

Today, Batista’s empire is under siege. His port, which he said would be the third-largest in the world, is still under construction, just one of many delayed projects and missed production targets. That, together with a 34 percent decline in the price of oil since 2008, has battered his companies’ share prices and knocked $25 billion off his net worth, more than the entire fortune of founder Jeff Bezos. “People were basically investing in a PowerPoint presentation,” says Ed Kuczma, an emerging-markets analyst at Van Eck Associates, which holds shares in Batista’s companies. “He’s very charismatic. I’ve seen him on roadshows and he definitely lightens up a room when he walks in. But he doesn’t have the credibility he used to.”