The man Brazil’s government nominated to chair the board of Petrobras, the nation’s largest company, on Sunday walked away from the job after the football club he runs lost a regional championship.
Rodolfo Landim, the president of Rio de Janeiro team Flamengo, was last month chosen by the Jair Bolsonaro administration to oversee the $90bn-valued oil and gas major as part of a reshuffle of the top brass that has raised concerns about the direction of the company.
But after Flamengo on Saturday night lost the Rio state championship to crosstown rivals Fluminense, the 65-year-old decided to decline the nomination, which would have been confirmed at a shareholder meeting in the coming weeks.
“Despite the size and importance of Petrobras for our country . . . I would like to inform you that I decided to give up this nomination, concentrating all my time and dedication to the even greater strengthening of our Flamengo,” said Landim, after Brazil’s most popular team drew 1-1, losing on aggregate the Carioca championship, a tournament that has been running since 1906.
“Recent events have shown me the need for all of us to commit to an even greater degree of dedication and focus to the club.”
Unlike English football teams, which have typically adopted corporate structures, most Brazilian sides are still run as traditional sports associations, exempt from certain taxes and owned by fans, who elect powerful executives. Critics say the model encourages financial irresponsibility and gives management too much power.
A former petroleum engineer who spent decades in the oil and gas industry, including 26 years at Petrobras, Landim’s nomination to chair the board of directors of the state-controlled company was broadly hailed by markets. He was nominated alongside economist Adriano Pires, who is due to replace General Joaquim Silva e Luna as chief executive in the April reshuffle.
Although both nominations were considered technocratic picks, the reshuffle has stoked concerns that the government may again try to intervene in Petrobras in order to cap fuel prices ahead of elections in October.
Bolsonaro has in recent weeks lashed out at the Rio de Janeiro-based company over the prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas, which were raised against last month because of a jump in global crude benchmarks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
At the pumps diesel has soared by a quarter and petrol by 10 per cent since the start of this year alone, hurting living standards, particularly in poorer communities.
Under the previous leftwing Workers’ party government, Petrobras was forced to keep fuel prices artificially low, a policy that almost bankrupted the listed company.