Iris Fontbona, the wealthiest woman in Latin America, has an incredible story of success and luck. Born in Antofagasta, Chile, Fontbona became the steward of her family’s massive wealth after the death of her husband, Andrónico Luksic, in 2005. With a fortune of 25.7 billion euros, she stands as the tenth richest person globally.

The Unexpected Beginning

The foundation of the Luksic empire is rooted in a translation error. Andrónico Luksic, starting as a translator in a mining company, capitalized on a mistake made by a Japanese firm, leading to an unexpected financial gain that allowed him to become the major shareholder in a French copper company. This error set the stage for the future growth of their business empire.

Expanding the Empire

Today, the Luksic Group controls 70% of Antofagasta Minerals, one of the world’s leading copper producers, and 83% of Grupo Quiñenco, a conglomerate with interests in various sectors such as banking, beer, and manufacturing. Additionally, the family owns 84% of the luxury resort chain Plava Laguna, significantly boosting their wealth.

Family and Philanthropy

Fontbona, now 82, is deeply involved in philanthropic activities through five foundations in Chile, focusing on education, health, and justice. While her children manage the day-to-day operations of the business, she remains a pivotal figure in strategic decisions. Her influence spans continents, with significant assets in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Canada, the United States, and Croatia.

Iris Intibona in recent months
Iris Intibona in recent months

Legacy of Leadership

Despite not being involved in daily business operations, Iris Fontbona’s leadership and vision have ensured the growth and stability of the Luksic empire. Her life’s work underscores a legacy of resilience, strategic acumen, and a commitment to giving back to society.

The Fortuitous Deal

Andrónico Luksic’s fortune was significantly boosted by a deal with a Japanese company, where a misunderstanding of currency led to a payment far exceeding the initial offer. This unexpected windfall was a catalyst for the expansion of their mining ventures. Over the years, the Luksic family diversified their investments, including acquiring a television channel and taking control of Shell’s operations in Chile, further solidifying their financial position.

The Role of Family

After Andrónico’s death, Iris Fontbona took the reins of the empire. Her children, particularly Jean-Paul, Andrónico, and Guillermo Luksic, have been instrumental in running the day-to-day operations. Their combined efforts have maintained and grown the family’s wealth, making significant investments in industries such as energy, beverages, and transport.

Embracing Philanthropy

Fontbona’s philanthropic endeavors reflect her commitment to social responsibility. Her foundations focus on improving educational opportunities, advancing healthcare, and supporting justice initiatives in Chile. This dedication to philanthropy highlights her belief in using her wealth to create a positive societal impact.

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