Espírito Santos and Queiroz Pereiras: Duel of two dynasties

By:
Eric Ellis
Published on:

Ricardo Salgado went to war with a rival pillar of the Portuguese business establishment in his frantic efforts to shore up Espírito Santo group. But Pedro Queiroz Pereira had the last laugh

For a man steeped in family honour, there is a rueful irony in the fact that it was a dynastic feud that ultimately proved instrumental in bringing down Ricardo Salgado and the Espírito Santo name.

In 2001, one of the country’s leading businessmen and a long-standing associate of the Espírito Santo clan, the industrialist Pedro Queiroz Pereira, first became aware of intriguing movements in the share registers of companies around his family’s corporate jewel, Semapa, which dominates Portugal’s pulp, paper and concrete industries.

'Pequepe’ or PQP, as he is known to the Portuguese, had noticed that a stake in a key holding company of his empire was acquired by what appeared to be a Luxembourg shelf company called Mediterranean, which was represented in official filings by a nominee company owned by Ricardo Salgado’s Banco Espírito Santo.

Pedro Queiroz Pereira was lawyered up, hurling legal volleys at Salgado by dusting off his clan’s long-standing position as a shareholder in the Espírito Santo entities

The Espírito Santos and the Queiroz Pereiras have long been the titans of Portugal Inc. They have a shared history over decades of doing deals, and often with each other, at the intoxicating nexus where business acumen meets proximity to power, most significantly as the financiers and builders of dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar’s Estado Novo regime, which ruled Portugal from 1932 beyond Salazar’s death in 1970 to the toppling of his successor Marcello Caetano in the Carnation Revolution of 1974.

Once vigorous competitors in Portuguese banking, the two families became partners in the early Salazar years of the 1930s, where they became the regime’s favoured business clans and erstwhile allies.