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Opinion
Mac Margolis

Brazil Breeds a New Kind of Billionaire

New faces at the top are part of an emerging economy built on digital technology and fueled by customers from the neglected classes.

David Velez and Cristina Junqueira, founders of fintech giant Nubank.

David Velez and Cristina Junqueira, founders of fintech giant Nubank.

Photographer: Rodrigo Capote/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some new Brazilian names have joined the global superrich, and their ascent to fortune amid bleak times is a tale of a nation in transition. Yes, Brazil’s legacy wealth has left its mark: Banker Joseph Safra died last year, leaving a $17.6 billion nest egg and making billionaires of his four heirs. Now the Safras have company. A crop of geeks, web warriors and data-driven innovators figures among the global list of moneyed newcomers. They’ve made a killing, but also hacked some vexing problems on the way up, and Brazilians are better for the disruption.

Wonks, pundits and money wizards have long speculated or swooned over how the mojo of the market would reinvent this lopsided South American giant from the bottom up. With Brazil’s eyesore income inequality rates and capitalism for cronies, the revolution was never going to be easy. But a reboot may already be at hand.