Federico Braun

  • Interviewed 6 February 2008 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by Andrea Lluch, Research Fellow, HBS
  • Clip Duration – 3:18

Mr. Braun examines his business career and pinpoints the most significant stages in the history of La Anónima, particularly since 1979/1980. He addresses geographic expansion and diversification strategies as well as competition in the sector and the factors that account for company’s continuity despite strong macroeconomic instability and inflation. As the interview concludes, he singles out the most significant features that define him as a businessman, and he reflects on challenges facing the company.

Interview Excerpt

P: ¿Cuáles eran los activos de la compañía?

R: Los activos eran básicamente los antiguos negocios de ramos generales, los cuales se habían convertido en supermercados. Después de una muy mala situación financiera a finales de la década del 50 y principios del 60, se tomó la correcta decisión de vender activos y sanear pasivos, y transformar los negocios de ramos generales en supermercados. Eran 11 locales de tamaño reducido pero con un buen nombre. Había sido una empresa muy querida en el medio y muy conocida en toda la Patagonia.

Entonces, tomamos el efectivo control en 1979. Mi padre a las pocas semanas fallece. Con mi hermano menor y yo, que habíamos llevado a cabo todas las negociaciones, finalmente le compramos a nuestras hermanas, y parte a un hermano nuestro. Quedamos los dos menores con el control de la empresa. A partir de ahí, durante mis primeros años de vida empresarial, no dormía directamente. La empresa tenía sus problemas, de tamaño, de poca capacidad financiera. La situación financiera volvía a ser complicada porque se había incursionado en negocios no relacionados con el supermercadismo, como el negocio inmobiliario, mediante la construcción de un edificio en Buenos Aires que demandaba fondos. En esa época, en la década del 70, había una famosa circular, la 1.050. Estos préstamos terminaron siendo un salvavidas de plomo, con tasas de interés imposibles de cumplir con negocios normales.

Los primeros años fueron muy difíciles pero, en 1981, fue saneada la compañía financieramente. Vendimos algunos activos, como el mencionado edificio. Cambiamos departamentos por supermercados en la provincia de Buenos Aires. Y así, ingeniándonoslas en 1981, y más en 1982, empezó a ser muy rentable la empresa. Desde esa época, sin prisa pero sin pausa, ha habido un crecimiento importante.

Yo tuve la suerte de entrar en el negocio del supermercado en un momento muy especial. Los supermercados casi no tenían participación en el consumo masivo y, en el año 1978, cubrían solamente el 18%, y se llegó 15 años después casi al 60%, a un 54,55%. Y en la zona donde nosotros estábamos reconstruimos una empresa que había sido importante en la década del 40. Reconstruimos ese posicionamiento, lo profundizamos y crecimos ya no sólo en Chubut, Santa Cruz y Tierra del Fuego, sino también en el resto de la Patagonia, y hoy estamos en provincia de Buenos Aires, Santa Fe; etc.

Q: What were the company assets?

A: They basically included the old grocery stores, which had become supermarkets. After a very difficult financial situation at the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, the company made the correct decision to sell assets and restructure liabilities, and to transform the grocery stores business (general stores) into supermarkets. This included 11 stores, which were very small but enjoyed a good reputation. The company was greatly appreciated and well known all over the Patagonia region.

In 1979, my father became its controlling shareholder, only to die a few weeks later. My younger brother and I, who had carried out the whole operation, bought our sisters´ shares and a part of another brother’s share in the business. Thus, we, the two youngest brothers, gained a controlling interest. During my early years as a business man, I was practically unable to sleep. The company had difficulties in terms of both physical size and financial capacity. Its financial situation was complicated because it had ventured into businesses outside its scope of activities, such as real estate, and was constructing a building in Buenos Aires that was draining its funds. At the time, the 1970s, there was this famous Regulation 1050. This regulation awarded loans with interest rates that regular businesses found impossible to meet.

The early years were very hard, but in 1981, the company was financially healthy. It had sold several assets, among them the above mentioned building, and it had exchanged apartments for supermarkets in Buenos Aires province. By 1981, and, especially in 1982, it started to produce profits. Since then, it has experienced steady and significant growth.

I was lucky enough to enter the supermarket business at a special time. In 1978, supermarkets had a mere 18% share in the consumer market. However, fifteen years later, it had increased to almost 60%, to 54%-55%. In our operating area, we rebuilt a company in our operating area that had been significant in the 1940s. We restored its position and we enhanced it, growing not only in Chubut, Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego, but in the rest of Patagonia. Today, we are also present in Buenos Aires province, Santa Fé, etc.

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