Odebrecht OrganizationHistory

In 1944, the companies that would form Construtora Norberto Odebrecht S.A. began to move their first concrete mixer trucks. The DNA of the Odebrecht Organization, however, dates back years earlier: 1856, when Emil Odebrecht arrived in Brazil. Following the flow of German immigration to the country, the German engineer settled in Vale do Itajaí, in the Southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina.

Emil participated actively in the land demarcations, topographic surveys and construction of roads in Brazil’s Southern region. He married Bertha Bichels and had 15 children. One of his grandsons, Emílio Odebrecht, would show a passion for the Civil Construction sector and prove the entrepreneurial vocation of the Odebrecht family.

The construction company Isaac Gondim e Odebrecht Ltda was Emílio Odebrecht’s first company. In 1923, he founded Emílio Odebrecht & Cia., which was responsible for constructing several different buildings during the inter-war period in states of the Brazilian Northeast. At the time, the company was one of the pioneers in the use of reinforced concrete in Brazil.

With the start of the Second World War, the construction materials coming from Europe became expensive and scarce, generating a crisis in the sector. Discouraged, Emílio abandoned his businesses located in Salvador, Bahia. His son Norberto Odebrecht took his place in 1941.

Three years later, Norberto created his own company, considered the organization’s starting point. Under his leadership, Odebrecht grew, traversed borders and diversified its operations, always founded on the Principles, Concepts and Criteria developed by it and included in the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology (TEO).

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, investments in petrochemical sector ventures became strategic for the company. Also during this time, Emílio Odebrecht succeeded his father as CEO of the Odebrecht S.A. holding, with the challenge of guaranteeing the continuity of the company’s international expansion. The organization increased its operations, arriving to countries such as the United States, Mexico, Venezuela and Malasia.

Emílio Odebrecht headed the organization for 10 years, until Pedro Novis took the lead in 2001. The start of the new century would be marked by the acquisition of shareholder control of Copene – the raw material center in Polo de Camaçari, Bahia – as part of a consortium with Grupo Mariani. A mighty and competitive Brazilian company in the petrochemical sector began to emerge. A series of corporate and operational mergers produced the company Braskem in 2002. 

At the end of 2008, Marcelo Odebrecht assumed the command of the organization. Part of the family’s third generation, he now leads a new cycle of growth.

To learn more about the history of the Odebrecht Organization, please visit the website Center of Odebrecht Culture.