Abilio dos Santos Diniz was born in São Paulo, on December 28th, 1936. A practicing Catholic, he goes to the mass every week and is frequently seen at the Santa Rita de Cássia Church in Vila Mariana, every 22nd. His mother, Floripes, was his main influence on Catholicism. His father, Valentim, introduced him very early into the world of business work. With faith, knowledge and determination, Abilio created and developed, with his father, he largest retail group in Brazil – the Pão de Açúcar (“Sugarloaf”, on a literal translation).
His life is marked by his passion for sports, which he used as a tool for self knowledge, search for balance and personal evolution. The first time where he saw himself as a skillful, victorious individual was under a goalpost, at street soccer games on Paraíso neighborhood, where he lived through his childhood, or at Várzea do Glicério, the lowlands close to his father’s second bakery at Liberdade neighborhood. On both of those environments, throughout 40 years, Abilio began to strengthen his body, spirit and also test his leadership skills.
His talent as a soccer goalkeeper and, afterwards, martial arts, gave him self esteem and built his belief in sports as a transformation catalyst. He begun to practice physical activities regularly when he was 11 years old, when he was still a student on Colégio Anglo Latino, the school where he took his first two years of later elementary education. Without losing his love for soccer, Abilio also practiced judo, boxing and capoeira as well as, still on his tens, he started weightlifting at a local gym, the Atlas Gym, in São Paulo’s downtown.
Abilio managed to work through his sports routine with his student responsibilities. After finishing high school at Mackenzie School, he enrolled at the then recently created Escola de Administração de Empresas da Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV – School of Business Administration at Getulio Vargas Foundation), in 1956. Once there, he was parto of the second graduating class and developed a sudden interest for academic research on the Economy area.
Once he finished his BA course, Abilio thought of working in a global company or following through his post-graduation studies in the United States. He even took tests to enroll at Michigan University, but when he was already packed and ready to go, his father made him a proposition: to open a supermarket. Abilio thought over his original plans and took over an executive role, spearheading the founding of the first Pão de Açúcar supermarket, open to the public in April, 1959, at Brigadeiro Luiz Antônio Avenue, very close to where Valentim’s original bakery used to be, 11 years before.
And thus begun the long period of victories at sports and prosperity at the enterpreneur’s career. On the following year Abilio would marry Auri. Together, they had four children: Ana Maria, João Paulo, Pedro Paulo and Adriana. The supermarket chain already attracted many people from middle class and was a major success all over Brazil. In 1963, the second store was opened at Maria Antonia Street, at Higienópolis neighborhood. In 1965, he acquired the Sirva-se chain assets, a pioneer on this industry in São Paulo, alongside Peg-Pag.
In 1968, Pão de Açúcar already boasted 40 supermarket stores and 1642 employees, and Abilio found himself in a position of one of the company’s main executives, due to being young and having an enterprising mindset. He also maintained a new sports routine, now based on speed. By the end of the 60s, he started to compete on speedboat racing, becoming the Brazilian Champion three consecutive times, in 1968, 1969 and 1970. On other activities, he also competed on sports car races and won, alongside his brother Alcides, the Interlagos 1000-miles Race, in 1970.
A major experience on Abilio’s life was his participation on the government, as a member of the National Monetary Council, where, invited by longtime friend Mário Henrique Simonsen, he maintained the role for 10 years, between 1979 and 1989. During his tenure, he contributed to finding solutions for the Brazilian economy, but detached himself excessively from the family business.
Abilio’s life reached a breaking point right at the turn from the 80s to the 90s, when three major facts changed his perceptions about himself and the world, as well as reshaped his personality. These were traumatic situations, that brought him lifelong lessons and opportunities for change.
The first situation was the family schism caused by sucession problems at Pão de Açúcar, which involved Abilio and his siblings. Tensions only dissipated in January, 1994, when they signed the deal that entrusted company control to Abilio. The second was his kidnapping at December 11th, 1989. He spent seven days under captivity on a underground cubicle, thus eliminating from his mind the idea that he was an indestructible, invulnerable man. Finally, the last situation was when Pão de Açúcar itself almost disappeared, facing bankruptcy dangers in 1990.
While facing these problems, Abilio was successful and concluded that true virtue could reside in humility and tolerance rather than agressiveness and combat. He reaffirmed his profound relation with God and, by his own words, he was reborn as a less agressive man who begun to better comprehend the meaning of love, self knowledge and religion in his own life. The anger and frustration from his kidnapping gave way to spiritual elevation and affective development.
What followed after the 90s crisis was a renewed search for personal balance and his reunion with business success. With determination and discipline – two of his most distinguished characteristics – Abilio brought Pão de Açúcar to another long cycle of expansions and profits. As for sports, the enterpreneur raised his interests on long distant races and, in 1994, took parto n the New York Marathon, one of his most cherished moments of pride.
Still on this period, he began the partnership between Pão de Açúcar and the French group Casino. Seeking improvement, Abilio resigned from the Group’s presidency in 2003 and took over the role of President of the Administrative Council of the group. In 2009, the Pão de Açúcar Group bought the Ponto Frio retail chain and, in 2010, associated itself with Casas Bahia.
In 2000, Abilio Diniz met economist Geyze Marchesi in one of the group’s events. Geyze was a career company executive who started working at Pão de Açúcar in 1996 as a trainee. Both recognized that the love that brought them together was built under a relationship of friendship and companionship: at work, on sports, at their faith in God and the values they both shared. Abilio brought Geyze into the world of sports. On the other hand, Geyze made the business tycoon Abilio Diniz more human. They married in 2004. Geyze wanted to have a family while Abilio, by now with children and grandchildren, felt fulfilled on the matter. On this standoff, however, the man who preached empathy gave away. As a result, Rafaela was born in 2006, the couple’s first daughter. And in November, 2009, they celebrated the arrival of Miguel.
In April, 2013, Abilio took the role of President of the Council of Administration of BRF and, in September, has left presidency of the Pão de Açúcar Administrative Council. By December, 2014, the Península, the family’s investment company, acquired shareholders status at Carrefour Brazil’s capital, where Abilio now occupies one of the Council’s chairs. In March, 2015, Península acquired shares of Carrefour S.A and a year later became the third largest shareholder of the company. In May, 2016, Abilio Diniz was appointed member of the Board of the Carrefour Group .