Alexandre Soares dos Santos, the charismatic former leader of Jerónimo Martins' Group, has died yesterday at the age of 84 of pancreatic cancer.
Alexandre Soares dos Santos, the charismatic former leader of Jerónimo Martins’ Group, has died yesterday at the age of 84 of pancreatic cancer. The news of his death was first released by Público and later confirmed by his family to Observador.
Born to a wealthy family in 1934 in Porto, Alexandre Soares dos Santos became famous for transforming a small-sized enterprise into one of the most important companies in the country.
“I only had luck in life.” This was one of the sentences Soares dos Santos used to describe the secret of his success as one of the most emblematic Portuguese businessmen with a total wealth of 3,419M€, according to Forbes.
Soares dos Santos was a colleague of late Prime-Minister, Francisco Sá Carneiro while attending high school in Porto and before moving to Lisbon to study Law. Unilever then invites him to join the company in Germany in 1961, which made him leave his studies. After the death of his father, Alexandre returns to Portugal and finds out both his and Vale family are thinking to sell the company his grandfather, Francisco Manuel dos Santos, founded. He would consider later in 2002 that keeping the company was the first biggest challenge of his life. In 1968, Alexandre Soares dos Santos buys Jerónimo Martins’ share belonging to Vale family, both consolidating his control in the company and entering the business of retail distribution to counterbalance his former employer, Unilever, in Portugal.
The sense of duty made him keep the company and, as he would later note, make it grow. Sure he did as Jerónimo Martins not only became the most important retail group in Portugal but also expanded to other markets like Poland, Brazil and Colombia with great success.
But Soares dos Santos is also known for his philanthropy as the founder of the Francisco Manuel Foundation in 2009 with the scope of spreading accessible knowledge to common people.
“A man of a powerful and magnetic personality and imponent presence, whom nobody was indifferent to”, Jerónimo Martins wrote in a special post dedicated to its leaders of decades.
His funeral will be held privately by family and close friends.