One of World's Best-Performing CEOs Dead in Plane Crash

'Iron Man' Roger Agnelli, banker turned mining magnate, dies with wife, 2 kids, 3 others
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2016 11:03 AM CDT
One of World's Best-Performing CEOs Dead in Plane Crash
In this Oct. 7, 2009, file photo, Roger Agnelli, then CEO of Vale, speaks at the World Business Forum in New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

"We have lost a Brazilian of extraordinary entrepreneurial vision," Dilma Rousseff, the country's president, said in a statement Sunday, per Reuters. Her mournful message announced the death of 56-year-old banker Roger Agnelli, who turned a Brazil mining company into the world's largest iron-ore producer and made it a major world player. The turboprop monoplane carrying Agnelli—who was traveling from Sao Paulo to a wedding in Rio with his wife, two grown kids, and their spouses—crashed into two homes shortly after an afternoon takeoff in clear weather, killing all six plus the pilot. Deutsche Welle reports a woman on the ground was also injured. Vale SA, the company Agnelli helped propel to the top of its game, said in its own statement that it was filled with "immense sadness."

Nicknamed "Iron Man," Agnelli—who took over Vale's helm in 2001 after spending most of his career in banking—was renowned for his tough negotiations, what Deutsche Welle calls "cutthroat instincts," and for bringing Vale into Asian markets, particularly China, the New York Times reports. Under his watch, he propelled Vale to become the second largest mining company on Earth, and the largest iron-ore producer—increasing the company's value from $8 billion to a staggering $150 billion in just seven years, per a book on Latin America's "emerging multinationals." He had even catapulted onto a 2013 Harvard Business Review list of the best-performing CEOs in the world, appearing in the top five alongside the likes of Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos. But Agnelli clashed with then President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva over the number of workers Agnelli had fired during the Great Recession, and things didn't get better under Rousseff, who ultimately forced Agnelli out of Vale in 2011. (This in the midst of a crazy political crisis in Brazil.)

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