Américo Amorim

The King of Cork

Born in 1934, in Mozelos, in the municipality of Santa Maria da Feira, Américo Amorim was one of Portugal’s greatest ever businessmen. Passionate about geography, a master of diplomatic relations and with a rare talent for business, Américo Amorim transformed a 2.5% inheritance in the cork stopper factory founded by his grandfather in 1870, António Alves de Amorim, into the world’s leading cork company.

A personality marked by a sense of boldness, pragmatism and nonchalance

His career began after completing the General Course of Commerce at the Escola Académica, in Porto, and he overcame a panoply of industrial constraints, economic crises, different political regimes, territorial barriers and revolutions at home and abroad.

A personality marked by a sense of boldness, pragmatism and nonchalance, for whom travel, contact with different cultures and the experience of multiple habits, values ​​and customs assumed a central role. It was on his first trip to Europe in 1955, accompanied by brothers José, António and Joaquim, his great companions in a life filled with triumphs, that the young Américo Amorim reinforced his conviction in the importance of a liberalised economy, free from constraints and operating at a global scale. That was the initial inspiration that led him to build the world’s biggest cork transformation group.

Tirelessly in pursuit of this aim, he travelled to Latin America, Eastern Europe and the former USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). In fact, and unlike what might be expected for the time, in view of the political regime in power in Portugal, Américo Amorim even requested a visa to visit Moscow. That was 1958, Américo Amorim was 24 years old and the business world was awaiting his next step. He became familiar with the intricacies of Russia, gained the confidence of the Soviets, won recognition, built friendships and returned several times to the country. Above all, he opened up a colossal market for the companies of the Amorim universe. At the same time, this experience revealed his culture of openness, tolerance and audacity when it came to cork.

The same stance bore fruit several years later when, within the framework of UN resolutions that aimed to isolate Portugal in diplomatic, commercial, maritime, air, military and financial fields, due to recognition of the legitimacy of the independence movements in the former Portuguese colonies, Américo Amorim decided to found a company in the Austrian capital - Gerhard Schiesser, GmbH, which was used as a warehouse for Amorim cork destined for Eastern Europe. The internationalisation process soon entered cruise speed, as long-lasting and progressive strategic positions were established abroad. But Américo Amorim was also pursuing another objective: the expansion of the industrial base, concentrating all cork processing in Portugal.

A key step was taken in 1963 - to create Corticeira Amorim - 93 years after the Amorim family had begun trading in Vila Nova de Gaia and just over forty years after the creation of Amorim & Irmãos, in Santa Maria de Lamas. The aim was to transform 70% of the waste produced by Amorim & Irmãos from the manufacture of cork stoppers into granules and, later, convert these cork granules into valuable agglomerated cork which could be used to produce a set of new cork-based applications. Laying the first stone in this process of vertical expansion, Américo Amorim dedicated his inexhaustible energy to opening an insulation unit in Silves (Corticeira Amorim Algarve - 1967), a flooring unit (IPOCORK - 1978) and the foundation of a company to produce cork stoppers for sparkling wines (Champcork - 1983). At the internal level he oversaw the construction of two factories for the preparation of raw material (Ponte de Sor and Coruche).

Often seen as an authentic minister of foreign affairs, Américo Amorim put these skills at the service of the entire cork industry.

Success abroad

This bold expansion programme, which included Américo Amorim's valid aspirations to achieve success abroad, was further anchored when the company was listed on the Portuguese stock exchange in 1988, initially for Amorim & Irmãos, Corticeira Amorim, IPOCORK and Champcork. A year later, a public offer was launched to exchange the shares of Corticeira Amorim for the shares of the remaining companies. Investments then ensued at a frenetic pace (Amorim Cork América, Amorim France, Víctor & Amorim in Spain, Amorim Cork Australasia, Indústria Corchera in Chile, among others). The companies of the Amorim group invested in Research & Development, and the founding pillars of the Amorim spirit emerged - based on pride, attitude, ambition, initiative and discretion. Américo Amorim added his own personal vision, conviction and firmness, embodied in one of his famous maxims: “If I could, I would build a new factory every day.”

Often seen as an authentic minister of foreign affairs, Américo Amorim put these skills at the service of the entire cork industry: he was president of the pioneering Regional Guild of Cork Industrialists of the North of Portugal, was president of the subsequent Association of Cork Industrialists of the North of Portugal and was president of the Confédération Européenne du Liège (European Cork Federation). A man of action, determined and innovative, he created an unprecedented Advertising Commission, which focused on the effective worldwide promotion of the Portuguese cork sector. In addition, he introduced a systematic practice of inviting foreign delegations to visit cork oak forests, cork processing plants and research centres.

An undisputed leader

An undisputed leader among his closest friends, Américo Amorim masterfully understood how to align the skills, merits and complementary expertise of his brothers José (forestry and supplies), António (industrial management and social responsibility) and Joaquim (foreign relations), Américo Amorim and in 2001 passed the baton of the chairmanship of the holding company, Corticeira Amorim, to his nephew, António de Rios Amorim. For well over a decade he continued as an advisor to the company. Declared “King of Cork” by Forbes magazine in 1992, Américo Amorim was the first Portuguese person to be awarded a Doctorate Honoris Causa by the Board of Trustees of St. John’s University, in New York, António Ramalho Eanes, at the Government's proposal, presented him with the Order of Industrial and Agricultural Merit, in the class of Industrial Merit.

He married Maria Fernanda Amorim and had three daughters: Paula, Marta and Luísa. Américo Amorim died on July 13, 2017.

“Studying is a precious asset, but contact with the world, with the diversity of continents, the analysis of countries, peoples' cultures, the experience of values and habits, will enrich any entrepreneur. No university can replace that.”

Américo Amorim
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