Eliodoro Matte Larraín

  • Interviewed 28 May 2008 in Santiago, Chile, by Andrea Lluch, Research Fellow, HBS
  • Clip Duration – 3:17

Mr. Matte looks at CMPC’s development and his career there from his start in the 1970s through his appointment as president in 1981. As he describes the changes and adjustments in the organization, he explores Chile’s crisis and growth periods. He details his company’s funding, new market development, and internationalization processes, while reflecting on its management policies, labor relations, and succession planning. He finally shares his views on the specific features of his management practice.

Interview Excerpt

P: ¿A distancia, lo ve como que usted fue elegido y entrenado para sucederlos?

R: Diría que se fue dando. Por provenir justamente de Chicago, y por tener una mentalidad muy acorde con los tiempos que se vivían en el año 1976, una mentalidad de apertura. Esta compañía era una compañía a la antigua, muy protegida, y obviamente se produjeron muchas tensiones. Mi padre, que era Director, nunca fue Presidente, el Presidente era don Jorge Alessandri, que fue Presidente de Chile. Había una administración muy tradicional, a la antigua, en el sentido de que estábamos muy acostumbrados a operar en un mercado protegido. Y la CMPC era una compañía de mercado interno. Era prácticamente un monopolio del mercado interno, producía un 80% o un 90% de los papeles que consumían en Chile.

Posteriormente vino la apertura, de la cual yo mismo fui un propulsor desde mi modesto cargo en el sector salud, pero estábamos muy de acuerdo, todos los Chicago Boys, éramos strong believers de la economía abierta y competitiva. Obviamente que en CMPC, una empresa que había vivido en una situación de proteccionismo, hubo muchas tensiones, por parte de la administración antigua. En ese sentido mi padre fue muy visionario, porque me llevó para convencer a Ernesto Ayala y a los otros ejecutivos de que CMPC podía sobrevivir. Muchos de ellos pensaban que no iba a ser posible sobrevivir sin aranceles, o con un arancel del 10%, la desgravación arancelaria fue muy rápida, ya en el año 1979, creo que teníamos un 10%.

Q: Looking back, would you say you were chosen and trained to succeed them?

A: Things unfolded in that direction. Maybe it was because I came from Chicago, and I had a mindset in tune with the changing times, an open mind. This was an old fashioned company, very protected, and there were tensions. My father never served as president, he was company director. Mr. Jorge Alessandri was the president; he had been president of Chile. The company operated in a very traditional fashion, the old way; we were used to performing in a protected market. CMPC served the local market. It held a monopoly in the domestic market, producing 80%-90% of the paper consumed in Chile.

Later, the country moved towards an open economy, which I myself advocated from my humble position at the Health Ministry. We, the Chicago Boys, were strong believers in a competitive open market economy. But CMPC had been a protectionist company, and its old administration posed objections. In that respect, my father was a true visionary, because he brought me in to convince Ernesto Ayala and other executives that CMPC could survive. Many of them thought that the company would not be able to operate with tariff relief, or with a 10% tariff rate. Tariff relief was implemented quickly; by 1979, tariff rate stood at 10%.

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