António de Sommer Champalimaud (1918-2004)
António de Sommer Champalimaud was born on the 19th of March 1918 and was the first of four children of Carlos Montez Champalimaud and Anna de Araújo de Sommer. From his early years he had an entrepreneurial spirit, strong convictions, and a striking personality and he assumed control of his family business at a young age, going on to build a strong financial base.
When he was 19 the death of his father marked a turning point in his life, precipitating a succession of events which began his unique journey. Although he had had no previous knowledge or involvement in his father’s business, he left his course in the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Sciences and against all the odds he revitalised the failing General Construction Company. His marriage to Maria Cristina de Mello, and the inheritance he received from his uncle, Henrique de Sommer, contributed significantly to the birth of what was to become one of the great Portuguese business empires.
Before the Portuguese revolution in 1974, Champalimaud diversified his areas of business, which included cement, iron and steel, and expanded his activities across international borders and into the finance and insurance markets.
He was to suffer a significant setback, however, when his fortune was nationalised in the post-revolutionary period. In spite of his enormous financial losses, António Champalimaud relocated to Brazil, where, with unequalled tenacity, he was able to rebuild his empire, first through the industrial activities, like cement production, which he knew so well and later by diversifying into agriculture and livestock.
On his return to Portugal in the 1990s he courted controversy with the Portuguese state and invested heavily in the national banking system, becoming the owner of one of the largest Portuguese financial groups, which he would later sell.
António de Sommer Champalimaud died on May the 8th 2004, having left an undeniable mark on the industrial and financial landscape of Portugal. His life was characterised by the many challenges his faced, ending in success more than defeat, and he acted always with a strong sense of freedom, ambition, independence, initiative, vision and creativity. These traits have been were bequeathed as part of his legacy and are a part of the Foundation which perpetuates his name and its association with great achievements.
The creation of the D. Anna de Sommer Champalimaud and Dr. Carlos Montez Champalimaud Foundation was one of the most significant of António Champalimaud’s life. Although his intentions were closely guarded and his plans kept secret, he started towards the end of his life to voice his greatest ambition: to put the fruits of his labours at the service of society, in Portugal and beyond.
The Champalimaud Foundation is the result of this vision and a reflection of the kind of man he was. It is an instrument of change, a step towards great discoveries and a path on which to explore the limitless possibilities held by the future. The Foundation strives to uncover new founts of knowledge and to stimulate discoveries in the field of biomedicine which promote health and well-being. It looks to actively intervene in the search for solutions which alleviate the burden of disease, particularly in the fields of oncology, neuroscience and vision, both in individuals and in society.
This is the vision of the Champalimaud Foundation, which stays true to the wishes of its Founder and does justice to the act of generosity and patriotism from which it was created. It was to Portugal which António Champalimaud left the resources to create a world-class clinical and research facility, thereby placing his homeland at the vanguard of science. This is the commitment which the Champalimaud Foundation strives to uphold everyday.