João Camargo, president of the business group Esfera Brasil and host of the dinner that brought Lula together with the biggest names in the business world this week, says he had to remove the furniture from the room to be able to accommodate the 137 people who confirmed their presence, among them names like Abilio Diniz (Carrefour), André Esteves (BTG) and Rubens Ometto (Cosan).
The sofas did not fit in the elevator and were hoisted out of the penthouse window of his apartment in Morumbi.
At first, there would be less than 50 guests, according to Camargo, however, the interest in listening to the leader in the polls days before the election was so great that he expanded the list. Despite the reservations made in the private sector in relation to the direction that Lula can take the economy, Camargo says that the PT was in tune. “Entrepreneurs are pragmatic beings. I think that resistance to Lula, here, did not exist”, he says.
Founded in 2021, the Esfera group presents itself as a think tank that brings together representatives of the public sector with the private sector to think about Brazil. It has similarities with Lide, by the ex-governor of São Paulo João Doria. But Camargo rejects the comparison and denies any interest in entering politics in the future.
“I did a compliance in which I can’t hold public office, make a political statement or be affiliated with a party”, he says.
Days before the 1st shift, Mr. brought Lula together with dozens of businessmen and had already done the same with Bolsonaro weeks before. How did Esfera Brasil, a recently formed group, achieve this in the midst of polarization?I think I’m a natural born relationship person. Before the Sphere, I was invited to 15 confraternities. I wanted to do something more pro-Brazil and forget about this brotherhood thing. I was thinking a lot about setting up the Sphere, when Covid came.
Then, I was formulating, I made a well-done compliance, in which I can’t hold public office or make a political statement or be affiliated with a party. There are high fines at some companies I have signed with. In July [de 2021]I started to do [reuniões] at home with health protocol, PCR, gel alcohol and mask.
We started making the Sphere like this, and it was successful. Paulo Guedes came four times, Guilherme Boulos, Fernando Haddad came three times, Emídio came [de Souza, deputado estadual do PT]. We had a meeting with several party presidents, Gleisi Hoffmann, from PT, Bruno Araújo [PSDB]Carlos Lupi [PDT].
We started to encourage this job-generating class, which generates wealth for the country, which is at risk, to talk to the government.
How was the event with Lula on Tuesday?We weren’t sure what we were going to do with Lula in the first round. They only confirmed on Sunday. I was on the beach, resting, and they called me at 11 am. I ran back and started calling the 45 members [do grupo Esfera]. They accepted at first. It was the first event with 100% attendance by members.
But, as the campaign is very dynamic, and is at the end, and Lula is in first in the polls, many members wanted to bring in some partners and other people who do not belong to the Sphere. They were very representative. So I ended up making an exception, and 137 people showed up on the day.
Had to call an engineering company to bring a crane to my apartment [para tirar os móveis]. I live on the penthouse, the sofa didn’t fit in the elevator to go down. I had to lift the furniture and then we put 80 or 90 chairs to accommodate these 137 people who came to a record event that Esfera did with Lula.
What did you feel on the part of the entrepreneurs? Any resistance to the candidate? How was the weather?Entrepreneurs are pragmatic. The businessman is pro-Brazil. There’s no such thing as passion. The entrepreneur is a colder person. I think that Lula’s resistance here did not exist. I think it was zero resistance. Now, he was really in tune.
He told me to choose three people to say which Brazil they want, and he would say if it would be possible to attend. After listening to them, he agreed, as long as he can fulfill his promise of social inclusion and lifting 31 million people who are starving out of poverty. He said that he will make several committees that will have different types of businessmen, but with workers together.
It was a very fruitful, sincere, honest speech. I think people left here satisfied, relieved.
And the occasion with Bolsonaro, how was it?Bolsonaro went a month earlier. It was the day that Minister Alexandre de Moraes carried out that search and seizure of those businessmen [do grupo de WhatsApp em que se defendeu golpe]. So, it was a tense moment.
Bolsonaro arrived apprehensive. He came with ministers. I don’t think it was a very good day. But it was a very good, fruitful meeting. Bolsonaro, in the end, also expressed himself very well, he had no doubt about the polls.
We want a safe Brazil for capital to invest in. We held a seminar with the Three Powers and talked about guaranteeing these elections. We also held a seminar with Minister Lewandowski, vice president of the Superior Electoral Court, who spoke to about 40 people here about the security of the electronic voting machine.
He confided to us that, when he went with Minister Alexandre de Moraes to take Bolsonaro’s invitation to inaugurate them in the TSE, he told Guedes: “Minister, when I make a Pix for you, you believe that the money comes out of my Do you have any questions? Electronic voting is much simpler than that. When you go to the market, take the cart, go to the cashier and the total sum is that, doubt about that sum? doubts because he knows it is exact. The electronic voting machine is much simpler”.
After the election, what is the next event?We’re doing a big security study on foreign capital. We raise with the associates what are the pains of foreign capital, whether in the legal, tax and criminal part. We are trying to resolve some of them, either by ordinances in the new government, or by decree, or even by bill.
We are also going to hold a seminar to think about Brazil, from the 25th to the 27th of November. I closed the entire Casagrande Hotel [em Guarujá], 300 apartments. I will call the team that formulated the economic, infrastructure, technology, health and education plan for the winning candidate. We will introduce them with some entrepreneurs and make lounges, thinking about Brazil and where it can improve. Let’s debate with the current government, or at least dialogue.
The Sphere is very reminiscent of what Lide was, years ago. The Sphere is a new Lide. Are you the new Doria?The question is interesting. I try to demystify it as much as possible. We are a think tank. People only think about Brazil. I don’t want to go beyond 50 members. I’ve been saying this since the first day I founded the Sphere. Demand to go to 300 is easy. But it’s handmade. I need to call one, make a committee of two or three, sit down, think about Brazil.
If I put too many people in, I won’t deliver on my purpose, which is a better Brazil. Then there will be a B2B thing [business to business ou negócio entre empresas]. I’m not B2B and I’m not a prototype event manager. We hold few events, but they are rich in content and always to improve the country.
And if the possibility arises of going into politics, as João Doria did?I can’t go, because our compliance for those big companies that accepted to join Esfera is very strict. They felt comfortable that I’m not going to make the Sphere a political springboard or to hold public office or make a statement that could compromise big business.
We did something non-partisan, pro-Brazil and without great passions. The Sphere is a ball that has no sides. And I realized that it was going to work because, when I arrive, Bolsonaro’s team says: “Oops, our friend Lula has arrived”. And Lula’s team says: “Our bolsonarista friend has arrived”. It’s because I’m in the middle of a sphere. So I’m being well accepted on one side and the other.
Esfera managed to bring businessmen together with Lula and Bolsonaro, something that Lide is no longer able to do. Do you think the fact that Doria went into politics broke Lide’s bridges?In the case of Lide, I don’t know how to answer you. In the case of Esfera, which is a think tank to think about Brazil, it is not possible to mix a ticket into politics. If you expect to get a better result, you can’t mix it up. In Sphere, I would be betraying the trust of my associates and would pay fines for that.
The Sphere is a small think tank. To make a pro-Brazil purpose, I cannot get involved in a political party or passion. The government lasts four years. Brazil is already 500 years old, and this project of ours is not to improve Brazil like a pirlimpimpim. There are maturations, ideas, hiring professionals, economists, to think about a better Brazil.
To change, it will take a hundred years, 200 years, but if we improve Brazil and reduce growth nodes, we will all win. From the base of the pyramid class to the peak of the pyramid, you will win.
Created in July 2021, Esfera Brasil currently has 43 members who participate in meetings with government representatives. The group, which positions itself as non-partisan, has already received names such as President Jair Bolsonaro, former president Michel Temer and the presidents of the Chamber, Arthur Lira, and the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco.