- Wilmer Ruperti
Wilmer Ruperti (born 1960) is a Venezuelan-born shipping tycoon and a businessman. Since 2003 he has captured a major share of the market in physically exporting oil from Venezuela to the rest of Latin America, and has become one of Venezuela’s richest men.
Lloyd’s List International described Ruperti in 2004 as a man who transformed himself from a shipping master into a leading player in Venezuela’s billion-dollar oil business, and that “everything Wilmer Ruperti touches appears to turn to gold”. [Lloyd's List International by Raibow Nelson. August 12, 2004]
Ruperti’s career began in 1987 as a tanker master for Maraven, then an affiliate of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). He then studied shipping in Plymouth, England, before returning to Caracas, Venezuela, to set up his own small ship broking firm. His main break in the shipping business came in late 2002 when he shipped gasoline to Venezuelan ports, using tankers chartered from Russia, during a strike by thousands of employees at PDVSA.
The strike by PDVSA staff, which was designed to overthrow Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, severely reduced oil production and exports, and cut domestic fuel supplies, before it failed. As a result of his successful shipping arrangements, Ruperti was able to consolidate his business relationship with PDVSA and the government. Although his business acumen earned him the disdain of the PDVSA employees who went on strike and were later dismissed, Chávez decorated Ruperti with the Star of Carabobo, a Venezuelan medallion usually awarded to military officers for distinguished service.
Ruperti’s ship owning company Suramericana de Transportes de Petróleo owns a fleet of oil tankers and other vessels, and his ship management business is called Global Ship Management. Ruperti has become deeply involved in Chávez’s policy of shipping discounted oil to Argentina and numerous countries in the Caribbean. The Venezuelan business news portal Descifrado.com reported in June 2006 that Ruperti was setting up a maritime investment fund, and was planning to raise $500m for the construction of eight new oil tankers. [Descifrado.com by Redacción. June 20, 2006]
In December 2006, The Wall Street Journal profiled Ruperti, who is of Italian ancestry, and quoted him as saying that he supported Chávez because he is “the only person who has identified himself with the poor”. The article also described Ruperti’s lifestyle, noting that he has two South Korean bodyguards, moves about Caracas in a bullet-proof BMW, possesses a private jet, and in 2005 sponsored a charity concert held in Caracas by Luciano Pavarotti. Ruperti is a keen golfer and has set up a youth golf school in Caracas. [The Wall Street Journal, by Walter Lippmann December 1, 2006]
At an unreported date, Ruperti bought two gold-plated Napoleonic-era pistols which were once owned by Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan-born Latin American 19th Century independence hero, at an auction in New York, for $1.6m [EFE by Alejandra Villasmil “Pistolas de Bolívar por $1.6 millones”] . It was later reported that he planned to donate them to the Venezuelan government, but Ruperti denied this in his interview with The Wall Street Journal, saying he would leave them to his children.
Ruperti has recently moved into other areas of business. He owns a private television channel in Venezuela called
Canal i, formerly called Puma TV.
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