German Efromovich, age 63, is an entrepreneur who was born in Bolivia and 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.
Avianca Brasil, which is one of the few airlines left, which still offers free food to its regular passengers, is talking with plane makers from outside Brazil, along with domestic manufacturer Embraer, about an order for as many as 50 new regional jets. These would replace their fleet of older turboprop planes, which are presently used for their short-haul flights.
Planes from Bombardier, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. and even Russia’s Sukhoi Co. are under study, said Avianca Brasil CEO José Efromovich, as well as the regional jet on offer from the country’s national plane maker Embraer.
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.
Synergy Group started out in the oil service industry, later expanding to building and leasing out oil-rigs. The company also has interests in power plants, shipyards and products for the medical industry. A Synergy Group subsidiary has also developed a significant heavy oil field of its own in Columbia, for the production of asphalt and the group now has assets located in a number of Latin American countries.
Efromovich got started in the airline business with a couple of planes from a defaulted business deal and subsequently built up a flourishing air taxi service called Ocean Air, serving oil installations, initially simply in order to put the planes to productive use.
Synergy also has a joint venture with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in Brazil, for the successful penetration of some of IAI’s technologies there.
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 succeed in a bid to buy Portuguese airline TAP and get around ownership restrictions. The sale did not go through at that time but could in 2014.
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 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, commencing during 2014.