Brothers Behind Latin America’s Biggest Bank Begin Restructuring Their Empire

Brothers Fernando and Pedro Moreira Salles are buying out their siblings, Joao and Walther, at the investment firm that controls the family’s Itau stake

A pedestrian passes in front of a Itau Unibanco Holding SA bank branch in Brasilia
By Felipe Marques
February 24, 2022 | 12:07 PM

Bloomberg — One of Brazil’s wealthiest families has kicked off a major ownership restructuring of their stake in Itau Unibanco Holding SA (ITUB4), Latin America’s most valuable lender.

Brothers Fernando and Pedro Moreira Salles are buying out their siblings, Joao and Walther, at the investment firm that controls the family’s Itau stake, according to a regulatory filing. Joao and Walther own about 10% of the bank, a holding currently valued at $4.6 billion.

The purchases will be executed with several payments spread across years, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. Once all transactions are completed, Fernando will own 13% of Itau and Pedro 11.6%.

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A representative for the Moreira Salles family declined to comment beyond the filings.

Pedro Moreira Sallesdfd

Pedro, 62, is currently a co-chairman of Itau and was a key player in orchestrating the creation of the Sao Paulo-based lender in 2008 through an alliance with two other rich Brazilian families. Fernando, 75, previously was on the board. The Moreira Salles family collectively owns 26% of Itau and have a fortune of more than $22 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The shift won’t affect other Moreira Salles family assets, including niobium producer Cia. Brasileira de Metalurgia & Mineracao, the person said. It mirrors a similar change made by the family’s patriarch, Walther Moreira Salles, when he bought out his siblings decades ago.

Pedro’s son, also named Joao, will hold an indirect 1.5% stake in Itau and join his father and uncle at Companhia E. Johnston de Participacoes, the firm that owns the family’s Itau shares, according to the filing. Joao, 40, a former JPMorgan Chase & Co. investment banker in New York, is already on Itau’s board and helps oversee the Moreira Salles’s family office, Brasil Warrant Gestao de Investimentos. All transactions will need to be cleared by regulators.

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Besides Itau shares, Companhia E. Johnston also holds about $500 million in XP Inc. stock, which it received following a recent corporate restructuring.

The family also has an interest in Eneva SA, a power company created from the natural gas assets of former billionaire Eike Batista’s collapsed empire, and almost 30% of Alpargatas SA, the maker of Havaianas sandals. They also own a company that grows citrus crops.

Walter Moreira Salles Jr.dfd

While Fernando and Pedro have always been more closely involved with the family’s banking empire, the brothers being bought out have been instrumental in keeping the century-old clan at the forefront of culture in Brazil. Walther, 65, is a movie director, whose films include the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” while Joao, also a filmmaker, is the founder and publisher of a monthly literary magazine modeled after the New Yorker. He shot “Santiago,” an award-winning documentary on the family’s long-serving butler, Santiago Badariotti Merlo.

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