In the business and finance worlds, there aren’t many people who seem to show true proficiency in investment, operations, and philanthropy. But 3G’s Alex Behring’s career so far seems to be a clear lesson in what can be achieved as an entrepreneur and innovator in all three categories.
A Brazilian thought leader, investor, and philanthropist, Behring is the co-founder and co-managing partner of global investment firm and private partnership 3G Capital. The 56-year-old’s firm is well known for its long-term investments in Restaurant Brands International (which incorporates Burger King, Tim Hortons, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, and Firehouse Subs), Kraft Heinz, and Hunter Douglas. But the enterprise is even more renowned for the unique philosophy Alex Behring and his partners have always pursued.
3G Capital not only has a keen eye for companies with great brands and incredible global growth opportunities, but its executives also have a reputation for truly getting to know their acquisitions intimately. Unlike other private equity firms, Behring and the 3G Capital team don’t just buy to sell. They buy to hold long-term and actively engage with their businesses — rolling up their sleeves and participating comprehensively in the management and operations — to great effect.
“At 3G, we are owners of great businesses and brands and our goal is to grow them,” Behring told the Financial Times. “We are also promoters of people and we believe that we attract best-in-class talent because of our long-term focus. We’ve been building businesses for over four decades. We dream big.”
Alex Behring Starts Out With a Sprint
After earning his Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Behring attended Harvard Business School, where he received an MBA. At Harvard, he was already showing signs of a successful career to come, distinguishing himself as a Baker Scholar and Loeb Scholar. Behring remains actively engaged with the institution currently serving on the Board of Dean’s Advisors of Harvard Business School.
In 1989, he co-founded the technology company Modus OSI Technologies and was a partner with the company until 1993. From 1994 to 2004, Behring was a partner and board member at GP Investimentos — Latin America’s largest private equity firm — under the mentorship of billionaire Brazilian financier Jorge Paulo Lemann. During this time, Behring also co-founded América Latina Logística as a private sector railroad company, where he served as CEO and oversaw its Argentinian and Brazilian operations.
By 2004, Behring had impressed Lemann so much that the billionaire asked him to co-found 3G Capital as a global investment firm and private partnership that originated from Lemann, Carlos Alberto Sicupira, and Marcel Herrmann Telles’ investment office.
Alex Behring: A Keen Eye for a Deal
From the outset, Behring proved an astute investor and entrepreneur with a view and philosophy about deals that was entirely different from the Wall Street herd.
While most private equity firms have as many as 100 companies in their portfolios and focus on finding the next unicorn startup, under Alex Behring’s model, 3G Capital owns relatively few companies. It operates brands that have existed for anywhere from 50 to 150 years. Heinz, one of its companies, was founded 150 years ago, and Hunter Douglas, its latest acquisition, was founded more than a hundred years ago. Burger King was born in 1954.
Alex Behring’s success has led to wide acclaim in the investment and business sectors. In 2020, Money Inc. named him alongside the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg, and Sumner Redstone as the most notable Harvard alumni in the business world.
While most investment analysts and dealmakers are trained to glean insight from their Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. Behring knows that when you go into the real world and you’re running a business, you have to partner with others and respect strengths, cultural differences, and nuances. For an investor to have the knowledge and perspective that comes from being a business operator leads to a much deeper understanding of the vehicles in their portfolio. And that’s how Behring approaches deals, naturally making him more focused on long-term growth and the needs of the business and its people.
Alex Behring Rolls Up His Sleeves
It’s clear Behring doesn’t believe in simply buying and holding without genuinely understanding the companies in which he invests.
Alex Behring and 3G Capital use their control to influence the companies and roll up their sleeves and get involved. In short, Behring’s philosophy is to eat his own home cooking, so to speak, so that he can work with his companies and be more sensitive to the needs of the business.
In practice, this means 3G Capital buys one business every few years and owns it indefinitely, partnering with existing shareholders such as families and founders. Behring and 3G act as owner-operators, investing for decades, making decisions for long-term value creation.
3G relies on a model that relies on collaboration and partnership with a company’s existing shareholders. The firm’s recent deal with window coverings manufacturer and retailer Hunter Douglas is a good example. In February 2022, 3G Capital acquired a 75% stake in Hunter Douglas, with the family patriarch selling his shares in a deal that valued the company at around $7.1 billion. The transaction was sourced through an existing relationship between Alex Behring and the founding family, members of which have stayed on the board and in operational positions to work with 3G over the long term.
“We are owner-operators first and foremost, as our owners are the individuals directly responsible for operating our companies,” Behring told the Financial Times. “Everyone at 3G has considerable skin in the game, which creates powerful incentives to do what is right for the long term.”
Excellence, Professionalism, and Passion
Alex Behring co-founded the Behring Foundation as a nonprofit family foundation based family foundation focused on initiatives in Brazil. The foundation’s goal is to support people and social projects committed to leveraging the potential of young people to transform society.
The foundation’s goals are based on one overriding philosophy of giving. Alex Behring believes that building a robust and fair society begins by prioritizing and investing in the next generations and to fulfill his philanthropic goals, he makes use of his business expertise and international experience to contribute to the foundation’s partners — social entrepreneurs and projects that benefit the youth by improving their present well-being and expanding their future opportunities in the digital economy.
Investor, business operator, and philanthropist, Alex Behring’s career seems to be a clear lesson in what can be achieved with the right mindset and willingness to work hard.