Samuel Klein (businessman)
15 November 1923|
Zaklików, Polish Republic
|Died||20 November 2014
São Paulo, Brazil
|Known for||Founding Casas Bahia, philanthropy|
|Net worth||US$ 835 million (2013)|
Samuel Klein (15 November 1923 – 20 November 2014) was a Polish-Brazilian business magnate and philanthropist who founded the Casas Bahia chain of department stores in Brazil, building them into the top retailer in the country. This along with his tendency to use massive warehouses for his goods, including the largest single warehouse in South America, led him to be known in the 1990s as the "Sam Walton of Brazil".
Through Casas Bahia, Klein's family became one of the wealthiest families in Brazil. In 2013, Forbes ranked him 78th richest person in Brazil with a personal net worth of $835 million, while his son, Michael, was ranked 87th with $723 million.
Life and work
Klein was born in Zaklików, the third of nine children. At 19, Klein worked as a joiner at the time of the Nazi German invasion of Poland in World War II, when he was taken to the Maidanek concentration camp along with his father. His mother and five younger siblings were sent to the extermination camp of Treblinka. He was later transported to Auschwitz in 1944. He escaped from the soldiers on 22 July 1944; in his own words, "I didn't know where I was going, but I was certain to get far from the group." He spent the night in the fields, where some Christian Poles, also fugitives, helped him flee. He managed to return to his old house, which was ruined, and worked on a small farm in the area in exchange for food.
After the war, he met his sister Sezia (Esther) and brother Solomon (who lives today in New York City). Some of Klein's family live in the Boston metropolitan area including his great-nephew, Victor Asher Greenstein, who graduated with a MBA from Dartmouth College, Tuck School of Business and is currently a prominent accountant with KPMG, LLP. The Klein brothers then went to Germany, and were able to find their father alive. Klein lived in Munich, West Germany, until 1951, where he met Chana, his future wife. 
Brazil and Casas Bahia
Klein's father went to Brazil, together with his sister Esther. He himself wanted to emigrate to the United States, but the immigration quota was full. So he joined his father and sister, making his way to Brazil via Bolivia, and settled with his family in São Caetano do Sul in greater São Paulo.
In 1952, he began working as a peddler, selling sheets, tablecloths, and towels door to door using a buggy. After five years, in 1957, he had accumulated sufficient capital to open his first shop in downtown São Caetano do Sul, which he called "Casa Bahia". The name was an homage to his patrons, the majority of whom were migrant workers from the northeast state of Bahia. Today, there are more than 500 of these stores with over 23 million customers, making Casas Bahia the largest warehouse distributor in Latin America. Casas Bahia is a recipient of a number of awards in recognition of its retail excellence.
Economic success and recent work
The rapid growth of the organization, and Klein's role in building it into a regional economic force were the subject of one of the case studies in C. K. Prahalad's Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid.
Klein guarded the company's finances, keeping control of all expenses within his immediate family, although in 1997 he opened the company's books to the public to secure promissory notes for the year. He later passed control of Casas Bahia to his son Michael, who was its CEO as of 2009, and retired in Brazil. In 2009, Samuel Klein sold Casas Bahia to Grupo Pão de Açúcar. Via Varejo was soon formed through the mergers of Casas Bahia with Ponto Frio and Extra Eletro, both owned by Grupo Pão de Açúcar. The Klein family owned a 47% stake in Via Varejo, which is worth $2 billion today.
In May 2013, it was announced that the Klein family was planning to sell 16% of their stake in Via Varejo. In September 2013, Klein's 81.1 million shares of Via Varejo (25.1% stake) have been transferred to his heirs. 53.7 million common shares of the family's stake have begun trading on December 16, 2013. Via Varejo raised R$ 2.845 billion through a public offering of shares. Three quarters of the amount raised went to the Klein family, while the rest went to GPA. Ownership of the company has changed to GPA with 43.3%, the Klein family with 27.3%, and minority shareholders with 29.3%.
In July 2014, Grupo CB, the Klein family's holding company chaired by Michael Klein, purchased a real estate fund from BR Properties for R$606.65 million. The fund includes 26 C&A stores, a Brooksfield store, a Sendas store, a call centre, and offices on Paulista Avenue in downtown São Paulo, totaling 118,000 square meters of commercial space. Grupo CB currently holds a real estate portfolio of 420 properties worth R$4.6 billion in total, including stores, industrial warehouses, administrative complexes, offices and distribution centers, totaling over 2 million square meters of commercial space.
Samuel Klein was also a philanthropist. The systematic murder of 6 million Jews in Europe by Germans, also part of his personal history and experience, weighed heavily on his mind, and led him to be at the forefront of the establishment and strengthening of many Jewish organizations in São Paulo where he lived. He was the largest annual donor to Chabad/Lubavitch's boys' school and Lubavitch Yeshiva (estimated at ~$500,000 per year) in the Bom Retiro neighborhood.
In 2007 he purchased the large property for the two schools, which had been previously paying rent. He is also a major donor to the Renaissance School (Colégio Renascença) in Bom Retiro. In recent years he gave in excess of $20 million to a wider range of those in need both in São Paulo and abroad. This included assisting young people in São Paulo with grants to set up small businesses.
- From the International Directory of Company Histories, Volume 75 by Robert Halasz (2004)
- Antunes, Anderson (9 September 2013). "The Richest People In Brazil 2013: The Full List", Forbes.com; retrieved 9 September 2013.
- Miriam Jordan (11 June 2002). "Down Market: A Retailer in Brazil Has Become Rich By Courting Poor --- Payments of $14 a Month Add Up for Samuel Klein, Sao Paulo's Sam Walton", Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition; pg. A1).
- "Samuel Klein" (in Portuguese). Casas Bahia. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
- "Victor Asher Greenstein (Klein)". www.facebook.com. Archived from the original on 2016-12-30.
- Margolis, Mac. "Profit and the Poor", Newsweek, 19 July 2004, p. 42.
- Michael Kepp. "Greased lightning: Casas Bahia aims low and sells fast to grow in Brazil's challenging retail space." Revista Latin Trade, 1 July 2006; retrieved via accessmylibrary.com 29 October 2009.
- "Awards and Recognition" Archived 2014-11-29 at the Wayback Machine., Viavarejo, 28 January 2013; retrieved 26 June 2013.
- C. K. Prahalad. Casas Bahia: Retail for the poor (via Google Books) in The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, Wharton School Publishing (2009), pp. 207-18; ISBN 978-0-13-700927-5
- Coffey, Brendan & Cuadros, Alexander, "Hidden Billionaires in Plain Sight Emerge As Stocks Rise", Bloomberg.com, 15 March 2012; retrieved 26 June 2013.
- "Management and Board of Directors" Archived 2014-11-29 at the Wayback Machine., mzweb.com.br; retrieved 26 April 2014.
- Jelmayer, Rogerio (14 June 2013). "Brazil Durable Goods Retailer Via Varejo Plans Share Offers", The Wall Street Journal, 9 September 2013; retrieved 23 June 2013.
- Marinelli, Luciana, "Família Klein confirma reorganização societária na Via Varejo", valor.com.br (in Portuguese); retrieved 9 September 2013.
- Ayres, Marcela (10 September 2013). "Família Klein reorganiza participação societária na Via Varejo", Reuters Brasil (in Portuguese); retrieved 11 September 2013.
- "Brazil's Pao de Acucar, Klein family to sell Via Varejo shares", Reuters.com, 25 November 2013; retrieved 26 November 2013.
- "Ações da Via Varejo estreiam em alta na Bovespa", UOL (São Paulo), 16 December 2013; retrieved 17 December 2013. (in Portuguese)
- "Corporate Governance" Archived 2013-12-17 at the Wayback Machine., mzweb.com.br; retrieved 13 January 2014.
- Friedlander, David (3 July 2014). "Família Klein, ex-Casas Bahia, compra fundo com 36 imóveis por R$ 606 mi" (in Portuguese). TNOnline. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
- Pavani, Luana (3 July 2014). "Grupo CB compra cotas de fundo da BR Properties". (in Portuguese). Estadao. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
- Barbosa, Daniela (3 July 2014). "Klein compra imóveis do BTG por R$ 418,5 milhões" (in Portuguese). Exame (São Paulo). Retrieved 3 July 2014.
- Oscar, Naina & Scaramuzzo, Scaramuzzo (4 July 2014). "Michael Klein paga R$ 418,5 milhões por imóveis da BR Properties, do BTG" (in Portuguese). MSN. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
- "Samuel Klein" (in Portuguese). iG (São Paulo). 24 September 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- Klein's 11/20/14 obituary from Folha de Sao Paulo. Obituary, folha.uol.com.br; accessed 20 November 2014.
- "Samuel Klein, founder of Brazil's largest appliance chain, dies". Foxnews.com. 20 November 2014.