Bensaude Group is a unique case
in Portuguese economic history.

How is this possible?

It is a Group with a botanical business nature. They are like a plant that, while growing, strengthens itself, organically adapting to the environment, bypassing obstacles, searching for its space and sun.

With Moroccan origin, British influence and Portuguese Azorean heart, geographies very stressed by their maritime travels, the Bensaude made the Ocean their path, their support, their school of life, their lives.

And, by doing so, they allowed the sea to take them higher and higher.

Follow the Bensaude Group's 7 epochs of transformation

This is the story of a group that managed something absolutely unusual in the Portuguese economy: to remain active and prosperous for two centuries, specializing in several radically different markets - energy, tourism, maritime and logistics, distribution, transportation, banking, insurance, tobacco, and alcohol, among others.

"This book is dedicated to all Bensaude people. Not only to those who are descendants of the first family members to set foot on Azorean soil and who have the word Bensaude in their name. We are thinking of the tens of thousands of men and women who, not being Bensaude in their surnames, have been so in their hearts and souls, throughout these two hundred long years; and all those who every day leave their mark in their companies."
1

1820 - 1860

A new world

When the 19th century was still beginning, a young Jewish man named Abraham began to seriously consider fleeing Morocco.

This is a story somewhat common to all young Jews scattered around the world, since in 733 B.C. part of Israel's population was forced to leave the "promised land" and go into exile - the Diaspora - at the time by the imposition of the Assyrians, the first of a vast collection of foreign invaders.

The Moroccan city of Rabat from where the Assiboni's departed - 19th century photograph. - 1/3
What is missing?

It was in this commercial landscape that Abraham, Solomon and Elijah left their mark. They rolled up their sleeves, sowed their seeds, crossed the seas, trekked the islands, and reaped some laurels.

They laid the foundations: establishing maritime transportation of people and goods, acquiring ships, creating trade routes between the Azorean islands, commercial projects on more than one island, using innovative credit instruments, intervening in different markets, networking internationally, partnering with British firms, reinvesting profits in their commercial activity, doing business with family members.
2

1861 - 1922

The great leap

The islands are becoming more valuable as navigation support platforms and their strategic importance in the North Atlantic is gaining weight.
Abraham Nathan with his mother-in-law, wife and cousins: (adults, from left) Henrique, Helena; Cecilia, Abraão Nathan, Emilia, Walter and Rachel. - 1/5
For the Azorean economy to continue to evolve, it needed to gain scale.

It was this board and this data that were passed on to the second Bensaude generation. To stay at the pace or take the risks and gain scale: control of the economic chain, incentive for the creation of modern island ports and good port services, establishment of reliable and regular maritime transportation, investment in industrialization (tobacco, sugar, alcohol), launch of new businesses in strategic sectors (banking, logistics, energy, codfish fishing), expansion to the Mainland and moving the headquarters to Lisbon, keeping association with British companies, partnerships with other large national groups, investment in international projects with high dividend potential, all culminating in...a single Casa Bensaude.

3

1923 - 1939

The first heir

At the head of most of the Bensaude estate, accumulated over 100 years, stands a single man, Vasco Bensaude. He was Joaquim's son (Abraão's grandson) and Cecília (Elias' daughter). He will thus become the heir of one of the biggest Portuguese fortunes.
Vasco Bensaude at the helm of the Bensaude business. - 1/4
To stay at the head of a business project, laboriously built over a hundred years, is never an easy task: maintaining a giant economic conglomerate in a country marked by a political regime of growing authoritarianism, seeking to stabilize a national economy weakened by dozens of republican governments.

Social responsibility was, for Vasco Bensaude, a feeling and a value. Vasco Bensaude did not give alms, he offered work. The responsibility of being the largest employer on the island of São Miguel led him sometimes to invent ways to keep his workers busy so he wouldn't have to fire them.

It was Vasco Bensaude who would mark the economy of the Azores and the country for almost half a century:
a Renaissance man, well-traveled, cultured, methodical, he had an enormous passion for the sea and... he even became the guarantor of the Portuguese State.

4

1940 - 1967

Atrong arm

Vasco and Lilly Bensaude welcome King Umberto of Italy (center) at Fábrica de Tabaco Micaelense. - 1/3
Vasco Bensaude was an entrepreneur, but not a born businessman. He soon realized that his business group was too large and complex for him to make the big decisions alone, especially since he was very young at the time. He also realized that, in order to expand the Group's business and extend its arms, he needed a right-hand man. A prime minister endowed with an iron will, capable of dreaming and implementing.

This need gave rise to a recruitment process and a choice that would mark his management until the end of his days.

5

1968 - 1999

Autumn in April

The four siblings in São Miguel: (from left) above, Filipe and Antoinette; below, Beatrice and Patricia – 1967. - 1/4
A painful passing of the torch.

To some generations much is given. To others much is asked. To Vasco Bensaude much was given. He inherited a flourishing consortium through his paternal and maternal grandparents, his father, and his uncles. To his son, Filipe Bensaude, much will be asked. Filipe takes control of a still large and intact Group but will see his economic power dramatically diminish in the 1970's due to the course of history, without him being able to do anything to avoid it.

To rebuild the Group (almost) from the ashes, after a program of nationalizations that expropriated several companies, in a context of recovery of the Portuguese economy and accession to the European Economic Community.

How? Moving the headquarters to the Azores. Sons called to work in the company. Family support. Recruitment of renowned executives. Maximum cost containment policy. Investment in core businesses (maritime transportation, logistics, energy). Investment in tourism. Investing in services.

The phrase that would mark Filipe Bensaude's career was defined by Alfredo Bensaude when he summarized his father's life in the book "Vida de José Bensaude”:

"sacrificing pleasure to duty is a practice of virtue that must be acquired as a habit since childhood".

6

2000 - 2008

The return of the sun

Luis Bensaude - 2006. - 1/4
Luis Bensaude was the leader that all leaders aspire to be: inspired, determined, consensual.

Son of Filipe Bensaude. Accepted by the whole family. Entrepreneur. Visionary. Charismatic. Popular. Admired by co-workers. Unabashed to talk to any of them. Hard-working. Gifted with a very expressive look. Respected by other national businessmen, who saw in him one of their peers. At the right age - he was 40 when he became the leader of the Group.

He wanted to give the Group back the dimension of a large economic group in the Azores, lost with the nationalizations, and take advantage of the maturing of the Portuguese economy.

The acquisition of part of EDA's capital was one of Luis Bensaude's greatest victories, but his moment of management glory came with the acquisition of his great Azorean competitor: the Nicolau Sousa Lima Group.

7

2000-2020

In the name of the future

Terparque fuel park, built with respect for the local ecosystem; in the photo, flock of Blue-winged Teals, from North America. - 1/4
Consolidation of the business, change in the shareholder structure, and promotion of a common corporate culture, after the departure of a charismatic leader, the acquisition of the largest competing group, and the fall of a financial partner, in a country gradually recovering from an economic crisis.

How?

Family unity. Change of governance model. Professionalization of the company across the board. Election of CEO not belonging to the family. Maintain investment in tourism, distribution, maritime and logistics, energy and services. Streamline and follow developments in information technology and security. Investment in corporate branding.