Avianca’s German Efromovich May Call a Foul Over Sale of Portuguese Airline TAP
Columbian entrepreneur businessman German Efromovich may contest the the recently announced result of a privatization tender for the Portuguese national airline TAP Air Portugal, according to local Portuguese media reports. If he does proceed this will likely be before the European Commission, and possibly local courts in Portugal as well.
Efromovich owns, through his privately held Synergy group, the Columbian national airline Avianca, which he had rescued from bankruptcy as well as a private airline in Brazil, Avianca Brazil. He had previously made an earlier expression of interest for the 61% stake in TAP which the Portuguese Government is now putting up for sale to meet its commitments under a US$110 billion financial bail-out package from the European Union and the IMF, which was agreed to in 2011.
However ten days ago, the Portuguese government announced that the winning bidder is actually a consortium led by American-Brazilian investor David Neeleman – Neeleman is the original founder of American budget airline JetBlue. The consortium will be paying about US$400 million to acquire the heavily indebted airline, with bonus payments on top if the airline’s performance improves. A formal signing ceremony for the deal is expected to be held at the Portuguese Ministry of Finance next week.This is now the second time Efromovich has been spurned by the owners of TAP, after the earlier expression of interest he made was rejected in 2012. This time it seems he may contest the outcome by asking whether European Community standards have been met – with the implication that perhaps instead some form of favouritism may have been enjoyed by the winners.
German Efromovich is 63, was born in Bolivia and was brought up in Brazil and in Chile. Today his Brazilian based company, the Synergy Group, of which he is the Chairman and CEO, owns extensive energy and industrial interests, as well as Columbia’s national airline Avianca, and a number of smaller affiliated regional airlines.
The company also owns a Brazilian-Ecuadorian private airline as well which today has the same name, Avianca Brasil. German’s brother José, five years his junior, is his partner in Synergy and CEO of the Brazilian airline.German and José’s parents came from Poland after the Second World War. They settled first in Bolivia, where German was born, then in Chile where German went to school and then moved finally to Sao Paulo in Brazil in 1964.
German Efromovich earned his degree in mechanical engineering from FEI University in Brazil. He got started in business selling encyclopedias, and later helped to dub movies into Portuguese. At one point he even ran a school where he taught a union leader by the name of Lula da Silva, who went on to later serve as one of the most popular Presidents of that country.
A citizen of Brazil, he was granted honorary citizenship of Columbia as well in 2005 by a grateful government there for saving the domestic airline industry after it had gone bankrupt. In 2012 he also became a Polish citizen, in a clear nod to his family’s roots, though nominally primarily in order to qualify as an EU citizen to qualify to bid for TAP and surmount ownership restrictions.
In an interview several years ago when German Efromovich was asked where he got his business skills from he credited his father, but also his grandmother too, saying: “My father was a good negotiator, but even better than him was my grandmother. Despite the fact that she was illiterate and had never set foot in a school, she bought and sold and did the most complex calculations in her head.”
The Columbian Avianca airline has been a member of the Star Alliance of international airlines since 2009, which shares codes and cooperates on international marketing issues and includes some of the world’s largest airlines. In December 2013 the Alliance voted to add Avianca Brasil to the Alliance as well.