20 Things You Didn’t Know About Joseph Safra

Joseph Safra

When you hear of banking in Brazil, then Safra is one big name that you will come across often. Safra’s family is known for their ownership of banking and financial institutions both in Brazil and in other parts of the world. The reputation stems from their banking businesses which operate in nearly 19 countries worldwide. Joseph Safra is the current member of the family managing the business. If you follow Forbes lists of wealthiest people in the world, then the name must be familiar to you because in 2006 he came in at 69. Joseph is prominent in bank investment, owning some of the highly profiled banks in the world. You must be curious to know of this man Joseph beyond business and here are some facts about him.

1. He is of a Syrian Lebanese Origin

Joseph Safra is a Brazilian but originates from Syria and Lebanon. He was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1939 but grew up in Lebanon. The relocation from Syria to Lebanon was due to the businesses that the family was running. The family started investing in banking during the Caravan trade and set up investments at various locations. All their investments have been well managed and exist to date. Joseph later moved to Brazil and the family is always on the move to look at their banking businesses.

2. He is the founder of the 6th largest private Bank in Brazil

Joseph grew up in a business-oriented family; therefore, he also got the spirit to own businesses. In 1955, he founded Banco Safra Bank. The bank developed so fast to become one of the largest banks in the country. Matter of fact is the 6th largest private bank in Brazil. He is the current chairman of the bank which offers its services to North and South America and Europe. It provides the best banking services and has many clients banking there.

3. He is married and has four children

According to Celeb Family, Joseph is a father of four. He is married to Vicky Sarfati, and they have three sons and a daughter together. The daughter is Esther, and the sons are David, Alberto and Jacob. The family works together in managing the businesses with the three sons running one of the most prominent banking establishment in New York. They live in Brazil but have other residential apartments in other parts of the world.

4. He has a net worth of $23.6 billion

Through his aggressive nature in business, Joseph is now one of the billionaires today. According to Forbes, Joseph has a net worth of $23.6 billion. Most of his money comes from the banking business since his banks are among the best performing in the industry. He also is a real estate investor with many apartments in different parts of the world. When he sees an opportunity in any business, he decides to venture into it. He also has companies under partnerships with other people. According to Independent, he is the wealthiest banker in the world.

5. He is the man behind the Gherkin £700 million deal

The iconic Brazilian Gherkin is now under the ownership of Joseph. Safra bought the tower at £700 million from Deloitte Real Estate; the price of the tower exceeded the asking amount, which was £640 million. The tower was availed for sale after the previous owner failed to honor the deal of ownership leading to a pile of debt. The tower hosts many companies with Swiss Re occupying nearly half of the building. After buying the tower, Joseph said that the building had a high potential for growth, portraying his entrepreneurial spirit.

6. He is Jewish

Joseph Safra is Jewish; he was born to a Jewish family and has been practicing to date. Despite the problems that the Jews experience, he is still working hard to assist them. He has built many synagogues through his foundation for the Jewish community.

7. He moved to Brazil due to Jews persecution

We know Joseph to be a Brazilian, but he is in Brazil for a reason. Joseph being a Jew, exposed him to the endless persecution that Jews undergo. There have been several wars waged against them. In 1950, the state of Israel was emerging, and the Arabs started persecuting Jews. Joseph was afraid of his life, and his family’s life too. They, therefore, decided to save their lives by moving to Brazil.

8. He faced corruption charges in 2016

Joseph Safra faced charges in 2016 for a corruption case of bribing the government officials to have his debts waived. According to Business Pundit, his Banco Safra bank was to pay a total of $4.2 million as tax to the federal government. The chief executive of the bank was in a call with the tax officials trying to initiate the scheme. Safra group said that they had no plan to misappropriate their tax obligations, but the court later dismissed the allegations against him.

9. He is the only member of the Safra family remaining in the business

Joseph is the last man standing in the banking business in Safra’s family. His elder brother Edmond Safra died in a fire incident in his apartment in Monte Carlo. Edmond was also a prominent banker, but his other brother, Moise, has never played any role in the management of the business. According to Euro Money, Moise only attends the board meetings of the bank but does not concern himself in ensuring a smooth running of the banks.

10. He runs his business in a patriarchal way

Joseph is very controversial when it comes to running his bank business. The staff working in his banks are victims of his different mood-swings. He can do something weird out of bitterness but will always apologize once the pain is gone. Joseph says that as he does anything, he might either be right or wrong. He sometimes calls the staff dumb but will be sorry for the same after some time. Most of Joseph’s employees know him and adapt appropriately to his moods when they are at work. However, some employees have been forced to quit their jobs because of their way of handling them.

11. He is a workaholic

Joseph is a man who means business in everything he does; he is a workaholic and a tough manager. If you cannot work under pressure at any given time, then you are not fit to work for him. He frequently calls his employees at the weekends or even in the middle of the night to assign them tasks, not caring if he is interrupting their schedules. Moreover, he leaves no room for declining his request. Joseph might call you at weird hours, giving you the notice to go overseas and will not take no for an answer. He is focused on work and sometimes does not go on vacations with his family. When his family is somewhere having fun, he remains in the office calling his executives on business matters.

12. He buys jewelry to wives of men he delays at work

Joseph has a unique way of trying to apologize. Due to the demanding tasks that he gives to his employees, he sometimes gives them jobs beyond their standard working time. Joseph always wants to ensure that all responsibilities to his employees reach completion before releasing them. He has a habit of buying jewelry to the wives of the men that he delays at work. The jewelry is not a way of bribing them but to appreciate the patience of these women while their husbands were away.

13. He has been through heart surgery two times

Despite the extreme passion of work that Joseph has, his health is raising a concern; he has been through heart surgery twice. The heart problems could be genetic because his brother, Edmond, was also a victim of heart disease for ten years. After the surgery, Joseph takes swims 500 meters every morning in his swimming pools. Swimming is part of the therapy the doctor prescribed to him after the operation but is also one of his hobbies.

14. He makes donations to war victims and the poor

While growing up, Joseph was part of a society where war was the order of the day. He knows what challenges the victims of war go through and always donates to the through his foundation. Joseph also has a project to assist the needy people to access education and basic needs, primarily water and food. He plays a significant role in raising the standards of living of people around him if they are struggling financially. Joseph and his wife donated $5.1 million to support the Jewish society in the construction of Synagogues.

15. He keeps most of his business moves a secret

Despite being known all over the world, Joseph is a secretive man. It is the wealth that speaks on his behalf. Most of the people describe him as the secretive billionaire since he does not make most of his intentions known to people. Therefore, most of his investments come by surprise. He never announced the purchase of Gherkin but just met with the dealers and finalized the acquisition. Joseph’s secretive nature could be the reason why he has been successful since his competitors cannot steal his ideas. After all, even Coca Cola had to lock up their secret formula in a vault, leading it to be praised as the best-kept and most- guarded secret.

16. He sometimes made big losses

Joseph’s journey to being a billionaire was not as smooth as most people assume. There were incidences when he made significant losses that affected his business, one of which is a business deal in Sao Paulo in 1998. He got a license in broadcasting at $2.6 billion, but the owners later changed the agreement and gave him just a share in the business. Moreover, in 2009, the government closed his eucalyptus pulp business for fear that it could become bankrupt. However, it was only a way of overcoming the competition because the government officials are said to be his business rivals. Despite the losses that he encountered, he kept focusing on business and finally created his business empire.

17. He does not like to speak Portuguese

Having moved from one country to another, Joseph can speak many languages such as English, Arabic, Hebrew, French and Portuguese. The mastery of many languages works well for him since he moves from one place to another meeting new people each time. Hence, Joseph can interact with them freely. Joseph, however, does not love to speak Portuguese, his native language, as he says that people will misunderstand him.

18. He hires security personnel trained by Mossad to protect him

Being a billionaire is not pure bliss and taking shopping trips in Italy and France; you will always be insecure. Joseph has a concern over his security, and hence he hires personnel trained by Mossad to provide him with protection. Mossad trains the best security officers, and he feels secure to be around them. The whole family of Safra is obsessed with security and his late brother, Edmond, got his safety from guards from Israel.

19. He loves living a simple life

With the billions that he owns, we may think that Joseph’s lifestyle is luxurious but loves a simple life. He once regretted buying a mansion after he found out that it was not necessary. Most people with a lot of money could not mind since when cash is available, they can buy anything but not Joseph. He is always thinking of making more money; hence, his income is not spent on luxuries but in investments. The simplicity in him assists in advancing hid net worth.

20. He loves reading old and rare books

Joseph looks like one who is always concerned about his business and nothing else. The notion of Joseph being only busy in business is not true since he is also a book lover. According to Prabook, Josephs loves reading old and rare books when he is not in the office managing his empire.


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