Eike Batista: The Next World’s Richest Man?

Eike Batista, Brazil’s flashiest mogul and probably the world’s most blatantly ambitious billionaire (okay, save for Donald Trump), has been cranking up the volume on the boast that he’ll soon reach his goal of becoming the world’s richest man. In October he told me chuckling that he’s “getting there.” Most recently he told The Guardian that “Mister Carlos Slim has to invent a new race kart to catch up” (the Mexican billionaire holds the top spot in Forbes’ list of The World’s Billionaires). He made the same boast to 60 Minutes a few weeks ago. But his ambitions don’t end there.

Batista recently launched his own personal Web site, saying that the Internet provides a vehicle for those who have something to share. He wants to use the site to impart  the knowledge and wisdom that he’s gained throughout his 30 years as an entrepreneur directly to his followers.  He says that he’s noticed that young people between ages of 15 and 30 make up the bulk of his Twitter audience and share his ideals and ambitions toward a modern Brazil. So in his site, Batista expounds in short videos on how he builds his business “constellations” and “symphonies,” pontificating to the camera on his companies’ achievements and his vision of a better, more efficient Brazil.

Assuming he’ll share lessons learned from both positive experiences and disappointments, the mogul could have some good advice to impart the burgeoning population of Brazilian entrepreneurs. After all, although he did manage to triple his wealth in the span of one year, recent setbacks as 2010 draws to a close suggest that the road to the top will likely be bumpy (our late estimate pegs Batista at $27 billion and Slim at $53.5 billion).

Last week, Ventana Gold Corp., a Vancouver mining company of which Batista’s holding company EBX already owns a 20% stake of, rejected a $1.18 billion takeover bid attempted by EBX. Batista’s company expressed its disappointment but has said that it will not revise its bid.

Meanwhile, in the oil exploration front, the company responsible for boosting Batista’s net worth last year, OGX, also had some disappointing news as it concluded drilling in a well at Santos Basin only to find indications of “noncommercial” hydrocarbons. OGX, which has yet to start commercial production, reported losses of around $118 million over the third quarter of 2010.

Despite these setbacks, there undoubtedly remains plenty of reason to keep an eye on the billionaire. Yesterday Anglo American announced a revised 25-year tariff agreement with Batista’s logistics company (LLX Logistica) bringing its total investment to the port’s development to $1.2 billion. Last week, Batista’s energy company (MMX) announced it received long-awaited approval from Chilean authorities to build a $300 million port in Chile’s Atacama Region.

In March Forbes will unveil our new World’s Billionaires list. To top the list, Batista will have his work cut out for him.

Hopefully we’ll all be able to follow how Batista deals with both achievements and disappointments through his Web site. As he told me when we sat down at his Praia do Flamengo office overlooking the Sugarloaf mountain last year, “There are three magic words I make my son repeat: discipline, discipline and discipline. I don’t want my eldest to think things are very easy […] It’s good that they appreciate the small things or else it’s too easy. I don’t want them to think that [wealth and privileges] come from nothing.”



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