Walter Moreira Salles

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Walter Moreira Salles (sometimes Walther Morreira Sales, born in Pouso Alegre, MG, May 28, 1912 – Petrópolis, RJ, 2001) was a highly successful Brazilian banker, politician and philanthropist who is considered by many as one of the premier founders of the modern Brazilian financial and banking industry, Graduated from the Faculty of Law of Largo de São Francisco, University of São Paulo.

Banking career overview[edit]

In 1926 his father, João Moreira Salles, established the Casa Bancária Moreira Salles (Moreira Salles Banking House) in the town of Poços de Caldas, some 80 km (50 mi) north-west of Pouso Alegre, and Walter was named an acting partner in 1933 at the young age of twenty-one.

During 1940, Banco Moreira Salles catalyzed its growth by merging with three regional banks and eventually changing its name to União de Bancos Brasileiros (Unibanco). Walter helped propel Unibanco to its position as one of Brazil’s top three banking institutions by implementing a strategy of successful acquisitions and an emphasis on human resources.

In 1991, Walter Moreira Salles retired as Chairman of the Board, after a 60-year career, to become Honorary Chairman and take over the conglomerate's cultural endeavors. In his farewell speech, he summed up Unibanco's working ethics: "We are people serving people. As impressive as the technology available to a bank can appear to be, in the end, each electronic exchange will still bear the plain and inevitable circumstance, of people serving people."

The Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS) was launched in 1991, with an agenda focused on people and the country's social development. Moreira Salles would be the first President of the Instituto, promoting cultural programming for the public at large. A year later IMS opened the Casa de Cultura de Poços de Caldas, in the city where Casa Moreira Salles was founded.

Political involvement[edit]

Although he is best known for activities related to finance and banking, Walter Moreira Salles was also deeply involved in Brazilian politics. He was the country’s ambassador to the United States in the 1950s, serving in Washington D.C. twice during the decade. Moreover, he was Secretary of the Treasury in the parliament cabinet of João Goulart and gained the admiration of president Juscelino Kubitschek (JK) for his fame as a conciliator in his diplomatic incursions. During the 1950s he helped negotiate the growing problem of Brazil’s external debt on three occasions: in the governments of Getúlio Vargas, JK and Jânio Quadros.

Personal and family life[edit]

Known for his discretion, amicable character and charm, the ambassador had many famous friends, including the rock musician Mick Jagger, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and the actress Greta Garbo. Walter Moreira Salles died in 2001, at Araras, district of Petrópolis, in Rio, of causes not disclosed by his family.

His four sons are Pedro Moreira Salles, current president of Unibanco; filmmaker Walter Salles; documentarian João Moreira Salles; and publisher Fernando Moreira Salles.

Salles was married three times, to Helène Matarazzo, the mother of Fernando, whom he divorced at the age of 28; Eliza Gonçalves, the mother of Pedro, Walter and João, and his wife until the early 1970s; and Lúcia, whom he married in 1986.[1]


  1. ^ Wikipedia's Portuguese article on Walter Moreira Salles.