The Rake

BREW GOD

In the final weeks of 2011, obituarists abruptly found themselves caught up in a pre-Christmas rush: two billionaires had died within two days of each other. There was no shortage of archive material on the first: Steve Jobs, the roll-necked, dad-jeaned Apple guru who had led his company to world domination and whose worth, according to Forbes, was $8.3bn. The second subject couldn’t have provided a starker contrast: Julio Mario Santo Domingo was fiercely private where Jobs was public, and exquisitely tailored where Jobs was doggedly casual. He was an urbane industrialist who spoke six languages and wrote poetry and short stories on the side. Yet the prime source of his fortune, making him the first Colombian to break into the ranks of the ultra-high-net worthies, was beer. So much so, in fact, that Forbes ranked him $100m ahead of Jobs at the time of his death.

That’s not the full story, of course. Santo Domingo’s ownership of Colombia’s national beer company, Bavaria, enabled him to diversify over the decades into car assembly, petrochemicals, steel, banking, insurance and telecoms. He owned Avianca, Colombia’s flag-carrier and the world’s second-oldest airline, and Caracol Radio, one of the country’s main networks. In 1997 he bailed out , the country’s second newspaper, when, a Colombian news magazine, at the time of his death. Santo Domingo, the merchant prince of his native republic, put it more simply: “I grew with Colombia.”

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