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Sueli Bonaparte: Brazilian Dynamo

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How Sueli Bonaparte from the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce boosted U.S. business with Brazil.


BY JOACHIM BAMRUD

While the growth in U.S. business with Brazil undoubtedly has been influenced by the appeal of the fast-growing Brazilian economy and the policies of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and central bank president Henrique Meirelles, another person also gets widespread credit: Sueli Bonaparte, the executive director of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce, Inc. in New York who is retiring next month after 17 years at the chamber.

During her career there she built the chamber to become the most active of all Latin American bi-national chambers of commerce in the United States and a “must stop” for any prominent Brazilian private- or public-sector official when they visit the United States. As a result of her work at the chamber, she has just been awarded the prestigious Foreign Policy Association Meritorious Honor Award.

“The full-day conference she organized during the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the Brazil Summit in April in New York became two important references for the business, official, and academic communities,” says Paulo Leme, Managing Director, Goldman, Sachs & Co. “She organized such influential conferences that during her tenure at the Chamber, government officials always looked forward to speak at the conferences organized by Sueli… Through these conferences and special events, Sueli provided the forum for the Brazilian authorities to discuss the main challenges and opportunities in the Brazilian economy during difficult times and good times.”


It was at a chamber event in May 2002 that Lula -- still widely seen as seen as a radical presidential candidate -- was able to assure U.S. investors that he didn't plan any major changes in economic policy.

UNPARALLEL VISION

Bonaparte’s vision, commitment, and professionalism are unparalleled, says Lisa M. Schineller, Director of Sovereign Ratings at Standard & Poor's. She played a key role in S&P’s April 2008 investment grade rating of Brazil, the first by any rating agency.  “She has been the leading force in making the Chamber one of, if not the, most active and successful in New York,” Schineller says. “Her abilities span organizing a fifteen person discussion on a timely topic of U.S. Brazilian business interest, to a several hundred person conference with Ministers from Brazil and leading Brazilian and U.S. private sector participants, to one of the best Holiday Gala’s in New York City.”


Brian O’Neill, Vice Chairman of Lazard International, says Bonaparte's
"charm, professionalism and attention to detail are peerless."


Bonaparte also gets praise from prominent U.S. policymakers like Thomas “Mack” McCarty, who served as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and Latin America advisor. “Her consummate professionalism and courtesy have helped reinforce close U.S.-Brazilian business ties,” he says.  “Sueli is as warm as she is gracious and I have been consistently impressed with how she handled her responsibilities with such poise and energy.  She leaves a rich legacy and her contributions also put in place a firm foundation for the future work of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce.”

QUALITY BOOSTER

Marcio M. Moreira, Vice Chairman, McCann Worldgroup, says Bonaparte clearly raised the quality of the chamber after assuming it in 1993. “Having lived in the U.S. since 1980 and, therefore, through different phases of BACC’s activities, I can say that Sueli Bonaparte represented a major elevation in how the Chamber works and how useful it is to its Membership,” he says. “She has a keen grasp of what Brazilians are like and what they want/need to achieve in the U.S. marketplace; she also understands how the American and the Brazilian cultures intersect, which has helped her attract a great number of new Members to the Chamber. …Her enthusiasm for the Brazilian/American connection is contagious.

Albert Fishlow, Professor Emeritus at Columbia University and one of the top Brazil experts in the United States, echoes that sentiment. ”She has always been well aware of the interests of the Chamber's audience: as a result, she has put together programs that regularly attract large audiences,’ he says. 

REVENUE BOOSTER

It was that kind of knowledge that led the chamber --  in the midst of the economic downturn --  to reach the highest number of members in its history last year. Annual membership revenues have doubled since 1993, while membership has grown from 350 to 550. Instead of one monthly event -- like the BACC held before Bonaparte -- it now organizes four monthy events.

 

Fishlow also emphasizes Bonaparte’s personal generosity. “She has accomplished … these essential tasks with an immense personal generosity and care for all who attend and speak at the Chamber,” he says.

That generosity also extends beyond the chamber. Together with her husband Tony, Bonaparte established the Tony and Sueli Bonaparte Scholarship at St.John’s University and St. Thomas Aquinas College to support financially undergraduate students and they also support several non-profit organizations in the United States. and Brazil.

 

“One can emulate, but not really replace her,” Fishlow says.


 

In Their Own Words
What They’re Saying About Sueli Bonaparte

 

Latin Business Chronicle asked a group of prominent businesspeople, economists and Brazil experts to share their experiences working with Sueli Bonaparte, the executive director of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce in New York who on April 1 will be retiring after 17 years.

 

Here are their comments:

Brian O’Neill, Vice Chairman of Lazard International

I think the world of Sueli. Her charm, professionalism and attention to detail are peerless.


Paulo Leme, Managing Director, Goldman, Sachs & Co.

As a member of the financial community in New York and Washington, D.C, I would like to express our gratitude and recognition to Sueli Bonaparte for her enormous contributions to our understanding of the financial and business relationships between Brazil and the United States.  For seventeen years, and thanks to her contagious enthusiasm and professionalism, Sueli brought to us the most informative speakers and the most exciting conferences about economic and financial issues affecting both countries.  She organized such influential conferences that during her tenure at the Chamber government officials always look forward to speak at the conferences organized by Sueli at the Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce.  In particular, the full-day conference she organized during the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the Brazil Summit in April in New York became two important references for the business, official, and academic communities.   As such, through these conferences and special events, Sueli provided the forum for the Brazilian authorities to discuss the main challenges and opportunities in the Brazilian economy during difficult times and good times. 

Lisa M. Schineller, Director of Sovereign Ratings at Standard & Poor's

As executive director of the Brazilian-American Chamber, Sueli’s vision, commitment, and professionalism are unparalleled. She has been the leading force in making the Chamber one of, if not the, most active and successful in New York. Her abilities span organizing a fifteen person discussion on a timely topic of U.S. Brazilian business interest, to a several hundred person conference with Ministers from Brazil and leading Brazilian and U.S. private sector participants, to one of the best Holiday Gala’s in New York City. The success of the Chamber’s numerous events speaks for itself, and is a testimony to Sueli. This is abundantly clear from the repeated return of high profile and top notch speakers at the Chamber’s events, by the loyalty of Chamber members, and certainly not least, the dedication and professionalism of the team she has cultivated at the Chamber. Working with Sueli over the past ten years has been nothing but a sheer pleasure and she will be deeply missed upon her retirement.

Marcio M. Moreira, Vice Chairman, McCann Worldgroup

Having lived in the U.S. since 1980 and, therefore, through different phases of BACC’s activities, I can say that Sueli Bonaparte represented a major elevation in how the Chamber works and how useful it is to its Membership. She has a keen grasp of what Brazilians are like and what they want/need to achieve in the U.S. marketplace; she also understands how the American and the Brazilian cultures intersect, which has helped her attract a great number of new Members to the Chamber. Last but not least, she has a great sense of humor, can party into the wee hours, and her enthusiasm for the Brazilian/American connection is contagious. 

Thomas “Mack” McLarty, III, president of McLarty Associates, chief of staff and Latin America advisor to President Bill Clinton

 

I've had the privilege to work with Sueli for well over a decade, going back to my time in the White House, and continuing in my work with McLarty Associates and our family's automotive endeavors in Brazil.  Her consummate professionalism and courtesy have helped reinforce close U.S.-Brazilian business ties.  Sueli is as warm as she is gracious and I have been consistently impressed with how she handled her responsibilities with such poise and energy.  She leaves a rich legacy and her contributions also put in place a firm foundation for the future work of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce.  Sueli will be missed by all of us at McLarty Associates who have had the pleasure of working closely with her over the years, in particular Kellie Meiman and Caitlin Flanagan.  It is never easy to say good-bye and although we are sad to see her go we wish Sueli only the best as she begins this next passage in her life. Bom sorte Sueli!

 

Albert Fishlow, Professor Emeritus, Columbia University

Over the many years that I've known her, Sueli has been distinguished by three characteristics.  One is that she has always been well aware of the interests of the Chamber's audience: as a result, she has put together programs that regularly attract large audiences. Second, she has assured that leading Brazilians visiting New York, from political figures to entrepreneurs, always include the Chamber in their plans. Third, she has accomplished both of these essential tasks with an immense personal generosity and care for all who attend and speak at the Chamber. One can emulate but not really replace her.

 

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