Joseph Safra was born into a wealthy Jewish banking family from in Beirut. The family's history in banking originated with caravan trade between Aleppo, Alexandria and Constantinople during the Ottoman Empire. The family relocated to Beirut after the first world war. Later, facing anti-Jewish riots in Beirut after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the Safras decided to move to Brazil in 1952. In 1955, Joseph's 23-year-old brother, Edmond Safra, and his father, Jacob Safra, started working in Brazil by financing assets in São Paulo. But soon, Edmond Safra separated from his brothers Joseph and Moise and headed to New York where he founded the Republic National Bank of New York (which he later sold to HSBC in 1997 and donated most of his money to the Edmond Safra Foundation). Joseph Safra founded Banco Safra in the 60's, and today it is the 6th largest private bank in Brazil. He remains the chairman of the Safra Group offering banking services throughout Europe, North and South America.
Joseph Safra recently acquired the remaining shares of Safra Group companies from his brother Moise. The two brothers still maintain a joint ownership of Aracruz Cellulose.
The more public of two billionaire brothers. In mid-2006 Joseph bought, for an undisclosed sum, his brother (and fellow billionaire) Moise's 50% share of their financial empire, including Banco Safra, Brazil's tenth-largest bank, Safra National Bank of New York and Banque Safra-Luxembourg. Joseph and Moise's deceased brother, Edmond Safra, had a separate multibillion-dollar banking fortune, part of which he left to his wife, Lily, also a billionaire.
Joseph Safra, the brother of Edmond Safra, the controversial banker who died in a tragic Monte Carlo penthouse fire last year, is to open a Swiss private bank, following in the footsteps of his brother, who built up a large banking empire and was a key figure in Geneva private banking circles.
The new bank is the direct result of Joseph Safra having been granted a coveted Swiss banking licence after Swiss authorities approved Safra's purchase of the small Uto Bank in Switzerland. The operation will be renamed Bank Jacob Safra, after his father, and although it will initially be only a small concern employing 20 people, the bank already has expansion plans on its agenda. It is headquartered in Zurich but will include a Geneva branch not far from the location of Edmond Safra's old Republic National Bank, which he sold to HSBC Holdings shortly before his death.
Joseph Safra said 'Switzerland is an important strategic base for international banking business, and the bank can build on 150 years of experience and tradition of the Safra family.'
Suggestions that the new Swiss bank was targeting business from HSBC were denied, but bankers will recall the high-profile events of the 1980's, which saw a large-scale feud between Edmond Safra and American Express, among allegations of money laundering, and accusations that Edmond Safra competed unfairly with American Express using Geneva-based Trade Development Bank employees after selling the bank to the US group.
Joseph Safra's new bank will focus on private banking, a sector where not just HSBC but an increasing number of other foreign banks are expanding alongside Swiss private banks. Its operations are totally separate form those of the Safra Group, led by Joseph and another brother Moise, although it will be run and controlled by Joseph. Moise Safra said that he was pleased that the new bank will 'keep the memory of our father alive', and also said that Joseph's experience 'makes him predestined to take over the responsibility and control of the (new) bank.'
Net worth: $6 billion
Joseph Safra’s family has been in finance since the early 19th century, when they began trading currencies in Aleppo, Syria. In 1952, Safra’s father moved the family to Brazil. One of South America’s richest men is now the primary owner of the family’s massive conglomerate, which includes Banco Safra in Brazil, Safra National Bank of New York, and Banque Safra-Luxembourg, among others. The company also has interests in timber and telecom. Safra was shown up in 2003 when a Brazilian cell-phone venture he coowned defaulted on its debts and was snatched up by Carlos Slim.
Joseph Safra (in Brasilien auch José Safra ; * um 1939 in Beirut ) ist ein brasilianischer Unternehmer und Mitglied einer der reichsten Familien Südamerikas . Er steht der Safra Group , einer Unternehmensgruppe von Banken und Finanzunternehmungen vor. Er ist Vorstandsvorsitzender aller Safra-Unternehmen, darunter die Safra National Bank of New York und der Banco Safra in São Paulo . Im März 2006 gab das Forbes Magazine das Vermögen von Joseph Safra und seinem Bruder Moise 7,4 Milliarden US-Dollar an, was sie zu den reichsten Menschen Südamerikas und den 69.-reichsten Menschen der Welt machte.<ref>The World's Billionaires, Forbes.com, März 2006</ref>