Brazilian Retail Giant Americanas’ Leaders Resign Over $4-Billion ‘Inconsistencies’

The company backed up by billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann says it’s too soon to determine any impact on the balance sheet

Sergio Rial in 2017.
By Vinicius Andrade
January 11, 2023 | 08:09 PM

Bloomberg — Americanas SA (AMER3), the Brazilian retailer that counts billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann among its main backers, said its CEO departed after less than two weeks on the job amid “inconsistencies” with the company’s numbers.

Sergio Rial, who ran Banco Santander SA’s Brazilian unit between 2016 to 2021, decided to leave the Rio de Janeiro-based firm after it identified “accounting inconsistencies” estimated at around 20 billion reais ($3.9 billion) and tied to the funding of its suppliers, according to a regulatory filing Wednesday. Chief Financial Officer Andre Covre also decided to exit, the company said.

Americanas, whose market value currently stands at 11 billion reais, said it expects the cash impact of these inconsistencies to be immaterial, though it added that it can’t yet determine the impact of the findings on its balance sheet.

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Rial will be temporarily replaced by Joao Guerra, who’ll also take over Covre’s investor relations director role. Americanas’s board of directors created an independent committee to investigate the situation.

Lemann and his longtime business partners, Marcel Telles and Carlos Alberto Sicupira, first poured money into the Brazilian retailer in 1982. They currently own a stake of about 31% and told the board they plan on keep supporting the company, according to the filing.

Lemann is the world’s 70th richest person, with a net worth of $21.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

— With assistance by Rachel Gamarski and Felipe Marques