Roger Agnelli, Who Reshaped Miner Vale, Dies in Crash

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  • Wife and two children among six others killed in Sao Paulo
  • President Rousseff hails ex-CEO for `extraordinary' vision

Roger Agnelli.

Photographer: Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

Roger Agnelli, who presided over an unprecedented decade of growth during the commodities boom that entrenched Brazilian mining company Vale SA as the world’s largest iron-ore producer, has died. He was 56.

Vale confirmed Agnelli’s death on Sunday, a day after he and six others -- including his wife, son and daughter -- were killed in a Sao Paulo plane crash. His single-engine turboprop came down in a residential neighborhood about three minutes after leaving Campo de Marte airport en route to Rio de Janeiro, according to Brazil’s civil aviation agency.

Agnelli, an economist, was president and chief executive officer at Vale -- and the same company under its prior name Cia. Vale do Rio Doce -- for a decade through 2011 during a period when iron ore prices spiked. He led the company to an investment-grade rating, oversaw more than $84 billion in investments and acquisitions, and distributed $17 billion in dividends.

Firefighters at the scene of the wreckage where a small plane crashed into a house in Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 19.
Firefighters at the scene of the wreckage where a small plane crashed into a house in Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 19.
Photographer: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Brazil lost a citizen with “extraordinary entrepreneurial vision,” who was always “committed to the development of the country,” Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said in a statement.

The Harvard Business Review named Agnelli the world’s fourth-best CEO for 2012, trailing Apple Inc.’s Steve Jobs, Inc.’s Jeff Bezos, and Samsung Electronics Co.’s Yun Jong-Yong. The magazine cited an industry-adjusted shareholder return of 1,773 percent during his tenure at Vale and a $157 billion increase in the company’s market capitalization.

During Agnelli’s tenure, Vale became “the world’s top iron-ore producer,” the company’s press office said in an e-mail Sunday. He helped the miner “intensify its global expansion strategy, which led Vale to a new level in the global market.”

Agnelli also clashed with the government over demands he spend more on steelmaking and over how many local workers were fired when Latin America’s largest economy entered recession in 2009. He left Vale in 2011 to found AGN Participacoes, which markets iron, copper and other ores to South American manufacturers.

Before joining Vale, Agnelli worked for 20 years for Banco Bradesco SA, Brazil’s second-biggest lender by market value, having reached the position of executive director. He was a board member of companies including state-controlled oil producer Petroleo Brasileiro SA and power utility CPFL Energia SA.

Agnelli was a “synonym of energy,” Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi, CEO of Bradesco, said in a statement. “His style, friendly in relationships and resolute in business, marked a time of deep global changes.”