Government appoints football executive to chair Petrobras

landim petrobras
President Bolsonaro (center, in white) and Rodolfo Landim (first on Mr. Bolsonaro’s right) have grown close. Photo: Instagram

Oil and gas giant Petrobras confirmed a list of eight appointments to the company’s board of directors on Saturday, made by the company’s controlling shareholder: the federal government. Rodolfo Landim, president of Brazil’s most popular football club Flamengo, will be the board’s next chairman, provided shareholders approve his name in April.

The change at the board happens while Petrobras faces a stress test. Oil prices have soared due to the Ukraine-Russia conflict — with the Brent global benchmark nearing the USD 120 mark. Though its prices are pegged to international rates, Brazilian oil and gas giant Petrobras has not announced new gasoline and diesel hikes in the country for over 50 days. The government has no interest in seeing a fuel hike just before the election. 

Mr. Landim is an engineer and worked for 26 years at Petrobras. During the Lula administration (2003-2010), he was named CEO of BR Distribuidora, at the time an oil distribution subsidiary of Petrobras. The company was handed over to private control in 2019.

In August 2021, he and some of his former partners were accused by prosecutors of fraud for their alleged role in a financial operation that caused losses of BRL 100 million (USD 19.75 million) to several pension funds. Still, his name is not expected to face much resistance.

President Jair Bolsonaro and Mr. Landim became closer after the beginning of the pandemic. While the head of state always opposed Covid restrictions, under Mr. Landim, Flamengo also tried to lift Covid protocols imposed by CBF, Brazilian football’s governing body — such as limitations to training and fan attendance in stadiums.

In June 2020, Mr. Bolsonaro issued a provisional decree which altered broadcasting rights ownership, catering to Flamengo’s demands. The bill granted home teams full rights over games — previously shared with the visiting clubs. 

For Mr. Bolsonaro, the move was supposed to put him on the good side of Brazil’s most prominent club (in terms of supporters) and also hurt Globo, the country’s biggest media conglomerate — which Mr. Bolsonaro has already called the “enemy.” The decree, however, expired without being approved by Congress.