The Distinguished Career of

Ueze Elias Zahran

The story of Ueze Elias Zahran (1924-2018) will always be remembered as that of one of Brazil’s greatest entrepreneurs, and a truly inspiring leader. Founder of Copagaz and the Rede Matogrossense de Comunicação (‘Mato Gross Communication network’), the two leading companies in the Zahran Group, Ueze was born in the city of Bela Vista in Mato Grosso do Sul, on August 15, 1924, the second of six children of the Lebanese immigrant couple Elias Zahran and Laila Jorge Zahran. He attended the Dom Bosco and Oswaldo Cruz schools in Campo Grande, and received an honorary doctorate from the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul (UFMS). Married to Lucila Peluffo Zahran, he was the father of three daughters – Márcia, Ana Karla and Yesone – and one son – Carlos Eduardo –along with grandchildren and great grandchildren.

In his youth, he worked for his family’s small business (bar, coffee roasting, and bakery) in Campo Grande, and in 1950 he began to export coffee to Argentina through Porto Esperança in Mato Grosso do Sul, acquiring capital to fund his future business ventures.

In the same decade, he made a gift to his mother of a gas stove, just like one she had seen in São Paulo – in Mato Grosso in those days, people only cooked on firewood stoves. Upon witnessing his mother’s joy on seeing the blue gas flame, he imagined the countless other mothers who might have the same reaction, and discovered the tremendous business potential that lay in the sale of stoves, gas cylinders and the distribution of kitchen gas.

In 1955, the young entrepreneur established Copagaz, his own gas distribution company. He shipped his product by rail in two tank cars with a 4-ton capacity, to be bottled in Campo Grande. In 1961, he got his first bottling plant for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) up and running in São Paulo’s Socorro district, and began to transport bottled gas. Today, with headquarters in São Paulo and a structure that has 15 operating centers and 11 forward deposits, Copagaz figures among the five largest distributors of gas in Brazil, commercializing nearly 620,000 tons of LPG per year, through a network made up of 2,563 sales representatives, delivering gas in 17 Brazilian state as well as the Federal District.

In the 1960s, Ueze Zahran invested in broadcasting. Driven by his dream of making things happen, he entered the competition for TV channels in Mato Grosso do Sul, overcoming the media conglomerate Diários Associados and winning the concession for three stations: TV Morena, in Campo Grande; TV Centro América, in Cuiabá; and TV City Branca, in Corumbá. On December 24, 1965, he launched TV Morena, and then formed the Rede Matogrossense de Televisão (Mato Grosso Television Network), now the Rede Matogrossense de Communication, which has outlets in Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, combining radio and internet. Before the 60s came to a close, he started a small television factory in São Paulo inside the Copagaz facilities, producing vacuum tube devices.

Ueze Zahran cherished and promoted Brazilian culture, and invested in the national cinema. With his sponsorship, the director Ana Carolina made the films Das tripas coração (‘Heart and Guts’) (1982) and Sonho de valsa (‘Dream Waltz’) (1987), and Joel Pizzini produced the shorts Enigma de um dia (‘Enigma of one day’) (1996) and Glauces – estudo de um rosto (‘Glauces – study of a face’) (1998).

In 1984, he went into the business of soybeans, founding Copaza Indústria de Óleo de Soja in Campo Grande, as well as three grain storage units in the Mato Grosso do Sul towns of São Gabriel D’Oeste, Cassilândia and Medianeira. Five years later, he opened three more Soybean processing plants. As of now, the soybean complex built by Zahran has become the property of third parties.

In 1988, Ueze Zahran embarked upon another line of activity, taking up the breeding of Straight Egyptian Arabian horses at Haras El Zahran on his Chaparral ranch, also at Campo Grande. And yet, even as he devoted himself to other investments, LPG always remained his passion. In this industry, his primary legacy began to take shape in the 1990s, as he began the work of raising the awareness of Brazilian authorities on prohibiting the filling of cylinders by gas bottlers of brands other than one’s own, which in 1996 resulted in the industry’s Code of Self-Regulation, stipulating the need for “Filling one’s own Brand,” and “Refurbishing Cylinders after Every 10 Years of Use,” while establishing “Cylinder Trade-in Centers.” These regulations were fundamental in drastically reducing the number of accidents with victims caused by gas cylinders.

Acting as an entrepreneur was a constant in the life of Ueze Zahran. In 1992, he established the food processing plant, Fábrica de Massas Alimentícia Ilsa, in Cuiabá, which is now the property of third parties. In 1998, he undertook to structure the charitable activities of his companies, creating the Ueze Elias Zahran Foundation, a non-profit institution that engages in projects involving education and culture. In this century, in May of 2002, he acquired NHL Indústria e Comércio Ltda., a cylinder refurbishing plant in Monte Mor in the state of São Paulo, and in 2009 he opened his own cylinder factory, Ibrava Indústria Brasileira de Vasilhames, in the same municipality, which is no longer active.

Over the course of his career, Zahran has received a series of awards and honors for his unflagging work to promote the country’s development, ethics in business and respect for employees. He was one of the foremost business leaders in the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul.

Among his numerous citizenship awards, the title of Citizen of São Paulo bestowed upon him by the Municipal Chamber of São Paulo in 2012 in particular stands out, in recognition of all that he did for the development of the city. In 2015, he was awarded the title of Guardian of the Millennium Development Goals, international goals established by the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, following adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.

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Electronic LPG bottling carousel – Filling capacity of 2,300 receptacles per hour.

Copagaz 2019

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