‘I would never compromise with my biography’, says Rial about gap in Americanas

‘I would never compromise with my biography’, says Rial about gap in Americanas

Former president of Americanas Sergio Rial broke the silence and, this Tuesday (17), published on LinkedIn his version of the bombshell news that the balance sheet of the company he chaired no longer account for debts of R$ 20 billion.

In his post, he states that his motivation for accepting the position was to lead the company, about to complete a century, to growth.

To that end, Rial says he interviewed remaining executives to understand their concerns and prospects for the company.

“In these conversations, information and doubts were shared and with the natural deepening to understand them and give them directions together with the new CFO, Andre Covre, we arrived at the relevant fact with transparency and reliability”, he wrote. “Any speculations or theories other than that are frivolous. I would never compromise with my biography.”

To carry out this intention, Rial claims to have obtained full support from shareholders. “The conclusion of the initial diagnosis arose from the pressing need to correct the route. And this correction came from the transparency and unconditional support I received from CA [Conselho de Administração] and the reference shareholders”, he said. “Being a leader is not about being brave, but about being responsible and ethical. It’s not about being a hero or heroine, but having the resilience to stand up for the truth and do what’s right.”

In the message, the executive also explains his resignation. “Is it over there [saída] stems from understanding the need to make room for the company to restructure itself from a starting point totally different from what I expected to find”, he wrote.

“You have to know when to position yourself within a new context that presents itself. That’s what I did, without compromising myself on helping in whatever way I could.”

As reported to SheetRial took charge of Americanas at the turn of the year and, according to close executives, in less than 48 hours he was faced with a problem that turned into a billionaire accounting scandal.

According to reports, two group executives came to him with a report showing what they thought was a procedural error in the releases. Initially, Rial would not have realized the seriousness of the hole, confusing the orders of magnitude and asking if it was R$ 20 million.

Also according to reports, Rial thought it was a “minor” inconsistency, which would only require an adjustment to the balance sheet. For a company the size of Americanas, BRL 20 million would be “nothing”, in the words of those who witnessed the scene.

Upon hearing that it was BRL 20 billion, according to retailer executives, he called the entire team on an emergency basis, including the Investor Relations director at the time, André Covre. The two resigned ten days after Rial took office —and, according to the executives interviewed by the Sheeteight days after taking stock of the situation.

Rial immediately contacted Lemann, Sicupira and Telles, told what was going on at Americanas, resigned, and agreed to provide informal advice to shareholders in an attempt to save the company, according to people close to the executive.

The revelation of accounting inconsistencies in the order of R$ 20 billion triggered a contractual mechanism in which creditors can collect the debt in full in advance. There is speculation in the market that it is around R$ 40 billion, but network executives say that it should reach R$ 30 billion at the most.

The scandal made consultants, competitors and market agents debate whether or not Rial knew about the accounting problem when he accepted to preside over Americanas.

According to people close to him, he claims he didn’t know. Interlocutors of the executive at the company claim that he agreed to run it having access to open data. They also say that, as it is a company listed on B3, the former banker could only carry out a due diligence (prior inspection) with a signed contract. That’s what happened, according to reports.

The former banker wanted to use his accumulated experience at Santander —an institution he presided over and consolidated as an important retail chain— and at Marfrig to reposition Americanas.

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