Monday, June 25, 2012

Daniel K. Ludwig and the Jari Project

Daniel K. Ludwig was the very model of a self-made man.
He left school after the eighth grade and worked in shipping-related jobs before striking out on his own to ship molasses around the Great Lakes. He was then nineteen.
Before he was done (he died in 1992 at the age of 95) he was the sole owner of National Bulk Carriers, one of the largest shipping companies in the United States.

He pioneered the construction of supertankers. He expanded into banking, cattle ranching, real estate, mining and insurance. He founded a chain of luxury hotels in Mexico, Bermuda and the Bahamas, had operations in the Americas, Africa, Australia and the Middle East and was, at one point, the richest man in America, #1 on the Forbes 400 list when it was first published in 1982. 
He was a philanthropist, too, who donated more than one billion dollars of his fortune researching cures for cancer.
But he maintained a low profile, stopped talking to the press in the 1950’s and few Americans ever heard of him.
Not so in Brazil. Here Ludwig is famous, his name inextricably linked to one of the most ambitious industrial projects ever undertaken in the history of man. And even more remarkable for where it was undertaken: in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest.
The Jari Project began in 1967, when Ludwig made the biggest land purchase ever registered to a private individual. It was  larger than the American State of Connecticut, and spread out, about equally, on either side of the Jari River, the stream that separates the current-day States of Pará and Amapá.

Back then, though, it was all federal land – and it was from the Brazilian Federal Government that Ludwig bought it.
Initially, Ludwig’s plan was to exploit his new acquisition by ranching and farming, but he soon expanded it to include mining and the manufacture of cellulose, for which he intended to plant fast-growing trees, pulping and processing them right there in situ.
For that he had to construct two factories, one for manufacturing the product and one to generate electricity.
And he had to undertake a vast project to develop the infrastructure.

The factories were built in Japan, and they were designed to float, so they could be towed, by sea and river, to their final destinations – a distance of over twenty five thousand kilometers.

The infrastructure included a railroad, a port, more than nine thousand kilometers of roads, and a town (Monte Dourado on the map above). The latter occupied an area of sixteen square kilometers and included housing, schools, clubs, shops, a police station, a hospital and an airport.
It took more than a decade to do it all. In the process, Ludwig’s town grew to more than thirty-thousand people.

But then the authorities in Brasilia began to fear, as they put it, loss of sovereignty.
The truth of the matter was that Ludwig, a foreigner, had simply become too powerful for the politicians to stomach.

So they played the nationalist card. (The title, above, which appeared on the cover of a magazine of the time, reads, The American Invasion.)
Ludwig, frustrated and annoyed, abandoned the project in 1982. He estimated that he’d sunk, in the dollars of those days, almost one point two billion into it.
He got some back, but only a small part. After all, who could afford to buy it?
Finally, in 2000, the factories were bought by the Orsa Group ( ) a company dedicated to sustainable development. And now, Ludwig’s factory is profitably producing vast quantities of cellulose – and doing it in a way that enabled them, in 2004, to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. 
( ).

A happy end to a somewhat unhappy story - and all thanks to the vision of an American entrepreneur.
Leighton - Monday


  1. Very interesting! There must be something in the name "Ludwig" that drives some to take on vast construction projects, be they Bavarian castles or Brazilian communities.

  2. This man must have been fascinating, and I'm glad the structures are in use, employing people, without the feeling of invasion :) I am enjoying your posts so much. The news here is hopelessly Eurocentric. Which I guess is better than no news at all.

    1. I work for the Company Mr. Ludwig started. After he passed away he left all his money to Cancer Research...he was a great businessman..but with Jari he lost alot of money.

    2. I lived in Monte Dourado for a few years in the 70s when my father worked on the engineering for the cellulose plant. Very interesting experience as a youngster.

  3. Je comprends bien mieux le roman : Le Roi vert.
    G C

  4. What a great article summarizing this amazing project. I lost track of it after my relative died on the project just after the arrival of the mills from Japan and their successful installation. I am gratified to see that it's being managed in a sustainable way. It's comforting to know that this project, which was a great experience for him to work on and be a part of is still going on.

    1. My father worked on the Jari Project. Can I ask who your relative was that passed away? It was a very exciting time. I have fond memories. I was 8 years old when my father moved us to Monte Dorado to work for DK and Jari.

  5. And it is lovely for us to know that the posts our colleague Leighton left here are still enjoyed by our readers. Leighton Gage, the author of this post, passed away just ten days ago. We lose our loved ones, but their work goes on. There is great comfort in that. Leighton wrote with great sensitivity about Brazil. You should have a look at his website and learn about his books. I hope you will.

  6. I still work for The Ludwig Group, which was the company that Mr. Ludwig founded, originally it was National Bulk Carriers, Inc. He left his money to cancer research. He was an amazing man...

    1. Doreen, did you live in Monte Dourado, Brasil?
      I lived there as an 8 year old. Many fond memories that seem like yesterday. Did you work directly with DK? I would like to know more.

  7. I was contracted by Rose Gomes from National Bulk Carriers of New York as the Superintendent Mechanical Maintenance for the Jari project in Para Brazil. The last two years were spent preparing the project for the 'hand back' to the National Brazilian Government.
    Although the Mr Ludwig was treated badly by the Brazilian Government he was also deceived by his high level Officers on site who misappropriated Millions of Dollars worth of valuable equipment and fuel supplies.
    As the investigations commenced into this Grand Theft the administration offices were 'razed' to the ground and several North American Mangers and a Superintendent left the very next day, Death threats were so prevalent that we carried the 'Brazilian Special 410 gauge, double barrel shot guns' with us at all times. It truly was 'corruption personified'. Mr Ludwig's fuel and tires were found in Brazilian navy vessels, contractors earth moving and contractors logging trucks, (Diesel fuel had been dyed and tires had been internally stamped for identification as they arrived on site).
    Mr Ludwig was held in very high esteem by most of those who were employed in his manifold operations.

  8. My father was one of D.K.'s main accountants/PR director/Friend (Ralph Leach) from the 60's to the Late 70's. I remember my father going to Brazil, and Venezuela a lot back then. I have many fond memories of Bermuda and the Princess Hotel and its huge arch windows. I even remember our home on the isles of Bermuda in Garth Owen Estates. It's name was the "Meadowlark. I even remember the building of Westlake Village just NE of Los Angeles in the 70's. Thank you to the Author of this article for allowing me to revisit some really happy times in my past. :)
    Scott Leach

    1. Wow this is awesome..I worked for nyc in 1984 and as the name has chaNged after Mr Ludwig passed away and heft his money to cancer research it is now call the Ludwig institute for cancer research. I hAve been here 32yrs Nd remember when Westlake village was but and the jari project and many of my old it'd and nyc co-workers fondly still remember Mr Ludwig. I'm glad to see fond memories of such amazing man

    2. this is a question maybe you can answer how many floors in Burlington house did his main company use/have ?

    3. Toddy Ivanovo, I am very sad to say that Leighton Gage, author of this article and founder of or blog has passed away. We cannot help you with your question.