Industry: Banking and finance
Country: Brazil (Lebanon)
Wealth: 11.9 Billion
Joseph Safra hit the headlines (again) last month when he bought the Gherkin tower, one of London’s most recognisable landmarks. The Lebanese-born banker currently runs the Brazilian banking and investment empire, Safra Group. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, into a wealthy banking family, the family’s history in banking originated with caravan trade between Aleppo, Alexandria and Istanbul during the days of the Ottoman Empire.
The Lebanese family decided to move to Brazil in 1952. In 1955, Joseph’s 23-year-old brother, Edmond Safra, and his father, Jacob Safra, started working in Brazil by financing assets in São Paulo. Joseph Safra founded Banco Safra in 1955 and today it is reportedly the sixth largest private bank in Brazil. He remains the chairman of the Safra Group offering banking services throughout Europe, North and South America. Safra also owns the 660 Madison Avenue building in New York.