Our Chairman

Mario Garnero

Mario Garnero is one of Brazil´s most accomplished entrepreneurs.

Throughout his career that ranges over half a century, he has led Brazil in promoting greater international cooperation, seeing to the successful completion of activities in different industries that represented important transfers of knowledge and technology to Brazil.

A lawyer by training (a Law Degree obtained from the Catholic University of São Paulo, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo) where, as a student, he chaired the “Centro Acadêmico 22 de Agosto” (the University’s Law Students’ Association).

Mario Garnero is Chairman of the Board and principal shareholder of the Brasilinvest Group, a business organization established in 1975 as a private business agency operating along the lines of a classic “banque d’affaires” or merchant bank.

The establishment of the Brasilinvest Group, which has already attracted investments in the range of US$ 16 billion to Brazil, currently managing US$ 6 billion in project porfolio and with a net worth in excess of US$ 1,3 billion, gathers partners from 16 different countries, some of which are still minority shareholders. In addition, Mario Garnero is President of Jurisul – the Interamerican Institute for Juridical Studies on Mercosur, President of Forum das Américas, and of the United Nations Association-Brazil.

After becoming director of Volkswagen do Brasil in 1979, Garnero chaired the National Automakers Association and subsequently chaired the National Confederation of Industries (CNI). He was the top business leader of that time's recently developed Brazilian Ethanol Program, named Proálcool.

As the Chairman of NEC do Brasil in the beginning of the 90s, Mario Garnero was the pioneer in bringing the mobile phone technology to Brazil. Even today, his entrepreneurship also finds expression in high-tech ventures, as exemplified by the Brazil and Latin America start-up of Wisekey he has been leading, a company that has been named one of 200 Global Growth Companies by the World Economic Forum.

Throughout the years, Mario Garnero became a personal friend of some of the most influential personalities in the world, like former Secretary of the Treasury William Simon, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, banker and statesman David Rockefeller, former US Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton, France´s Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, among others.

Mario Garnero once managed to work out a meeting between a delegation of 70 American businessmen and Ernesto Geisel, Brazil's President during the late 1970s, which brought a major wave of foreign investment to Brazil. Henry Kissinger was also a guest of his during the difficult years of Brazil's foreign debt negotiations. More recently, in 1996, it was President George Bush who came to Brazil under Mario Garnero's invitation.

Apart from his business, he is a kind of "private diplomat", a role few people can carry out like Mario Garnero. Back in 1965, he took the initiative of inviting then Senator Robert Kennedy to visit Brazil. As a result of Kennedy's visit, Mario Garnero decided to found an institution to debate environmental and hemispheric issues in the Americas, which happened in 1978, with the creation of Fórum das Américas, Brazil's pioneer "think-tank" on democracy and regional economic integration. This is one of the reasons why he was chosen “Person of the Year” by the US-Brazil Chamber of Commerce in the 1980s.

These initiatives are added to the creation in 1998 of the United Nations Association-Brazil, following a meeting in New York between Mario Garnero and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who later visited São Paulo under the invitation of Fórum das Américas. UNA-Brazil is part of a group of similar institutions to be found in 115 countries, working as a bridge between the United Nations, its principles and values, and the Brazilian civil society.

As chairman of UNA-Brazil, he sponsored the trip of the correspondent of 'Folha de S. Paulo', Brazil´s most important newspaper, that brought to the attention of a large Brazilian audience the popular consultation in East Timor, approved by the UN Security Council, that eventually led to the independence of that country from Indonesia. He also led the campaign throughout Brazil so that José Gregori could be elected to the United Nations Human Rights Award given in 1998.

Mario Garnero is widely regarded as "Father of the Ethanol Car in Brazil". In the year of 1979 he held the position of director for Industrial Relations of Volkswagen Brazil and was subsequently appointed President of the National Association of Automotive Vehicle Manufacturers (ANFAVEA). 1979 was a crucial year for the Brazilian economy as the petroleum crisis pushed the federal government to consider imposing a ration on gasoline use which would ultimately mean disaster for the sales in the automotive industry.

Garnero, as President of ANFAVEA, visualized the car empowered by ethanol as the only solution for the ongoing fuel crisis and took the first step for its implementation on a national scale. Initially, Garnero convinced and got the approval of the presidents of the four major automobile producers in Brazil - Joseph O'Neil, president of Ford, Wolfgang Sauer, president of Volkswagen, Joe Sanchez, of General Motors, and Silvano Valentino, of Fiat - to establish the audacious goal of producing 1 million cars moved by ethanol, which at the time corresponded to the entire automobile production of the preceding year. The quartet, under Garnero's leadership, left behind any idea of competition to unite themselves around the historic objective of transforming the fleet of cars from gasoline to ethanol.

Afterwards, Garnero elaborated together with Brazil's National Industry Confederation (CNI) a complete business plan which sanctioned the possibility of the production of 1 million cars moved on ethanol, thus eliminating any technical doubts on the feasibility of the process.

Garnero then produced a document which contained the signatures of over 800 of the most prominent leaders of the Brazilian economy, all in support of the production of the ethanol empowered automobile. The private sector by that time was entirely mobilized.

Finally, Garnero persuaded then friend and President of the Republic, General João Batista Figueiredo to engaged himself in the cause and launch the "One million ethanol cars" operation, which conveyed governmental support to the ethanol and sugar-cane producers in order to guarantee the sufficient availability of ethanol fuel and also to the automotive industry in order to be thoroughly equipped, in a period of only four months, for the transformations caused by the substitution of gasoline by ethanol. Three years later and 90% of Brazil's new automobiles were consuming ethanol fuel, notably cheaper than gasoline.

Mario Garnero still today is called the father of the ethanol car in the private initiative, remembered by his tireless contribution for the implementation of over 1 million ethanol cars while president of the National Association of Automotive Vehicle Manufacturers and also for his unshakable belief in the future of alternative energy.

Mario Garnero has impressed all those who came to know him for the constructive role he played in most historical processes related to Brazil in the past 50 years, which sometimes implied great sacrifice and a skillful ability to negotiate in different languages and through different viewpoints. He is doubtlessly an established leader of an international stature.

He is a great and sought-after speaker around the world. Very few Brazilians have better analytic tools and oratory skills than Mario Garnero. Many universities in the United States, Europe and Asia have already welcomed Mario Garnero as a guest speaker.

Mario Garnero´s accomplishments are an honour to Brazil and an inspiration to young people. His lectures, books and op-ed articles on Brazil´s role in the globalized world are a must for all who want to understand and do business with Brazil.

Mario Garnero is the author of several publications, including Brazil in the World - Views on Brazil's Role in the Global Market, which has become a worldwide reference. His most recent book, JK, The Courage of Ambition, is a precious tool for all those who want to learn more about the personality and legacy of Juscelino Kubistchek, who was president of Brazil in the late 1950s and whom Mario Garnero had the privilege to work with when still a young student leader.

Brazil is becoming more and more the object of worldwide interest. Mario Garnero is doubtlessly a leading interlocutor in this dynamics. He has been making valuable contributions to Brazil and to the world in many different fronts. An impressive record that only keeps growing. It is indeed very difficult for one to be a great entrepreneur, social leader or benefactor. Mario Garnero is all of that and more.

*Source: MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology Latin Conference (www.mitlac.com)