Brazilian Billionaires Benchimol, Sicupira Reveal Their Secret to Exit an Executive Position

At Brazil’s broker XP event, Guilherme Benchimol and Carlos Alberto Sicupira talked about the moment of “passing the baton” of the executive position

Owner of Ab Inbev participated in a panel at the XP event, Expert, in São Paulo, August 2022. Photo: Courtesy/Expert
August 04, 2022 | 03:44 PM

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São Paulo — Guilherme Benchimol, founder of XP, and Carlos Alberto Sicupira, owner of AB Inbev, have left their positions as chief executives in their companies. During the event for XP’s Expert investors, held in São Paulo on Wednesday, they shared how to know when to “pass the baton” after scaling a company.

For Benchimol, the change of position at Amazon in July last year was an inspiration.

“I had some conversations with Jorge [Paulo Lemann] about leaving the CEO chair. I was CEO for 20 years, and, in the life of a CEO, you have to fulfill some rituals, committees, important things but that do not necessarily move the pointer”, told Benchimol.

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Since XP went public on Nasdaq in December 2019, Benchimol reports that he had to talk to investors and larger clients, on a business agenda that “sucked” and didn’t allow him to look in detail at the teams. “The most important area of a company is people management,” he said.

That was when Jeff Bezos announced he was leaving the CEO position to Andy Jassy, former CEO of Amazon Web Services. “We had a WhatsApp group of directors, with 11 people. I said it would be nice to put our CTO (Thiago Mafra) as CEO. We were building this agenda,” said Benchimol.

“The company that gets too big has no ownership [control]. You don’t know who does what and in the end, everything gets lost. You have to have the right leaders, the top management of the company has to be aligned with the long-term vision of the company, and everyone who works needs to feel that they are putting in a grain of sand day after day, this connects,” said Benchimol.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Sicupira is worth $8.01 billion. In turn, Forbes reports that Benchimol holds some $1.7 billion.

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Sicupira left the executive position at Americanas and the company’s board. According to the billionaire, as a company grows, it needs to make the transition to a more consolidated company. “If a startup does very well, there is that business of wanting to walk on water and go improvising until you hit the wall. The transition is very dangerous, you can go to the organization side and run a big business but have a startup attitude while maintaining humility towards what you don’t know,” he said.

The entrepreneur explains that he never leads companies for more than 10 years. “I always wanted to get rid of that executive position, put someone better in, and do something new. I can leave the board with the greatest happiness. Everything I’ve done behind is worth nothing to be admired. For me, what counts is what I’m going to do. For this, the line has to move and adapt to the needs of the business,” Sicupira said.

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