Divide and Capitalize

Oct 1, 2002

Colombia's Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño is a dominant player in the financial services, food and cement industries. But its complex structure is limiting access to capital, a problem GEA's bosses are trying to overcome.

No place sums up the best and worst of Colombia like Medellín. With Latin America's highest rates of violent crime, the city also is the breeding ground for some of Colombia's most industrious and entrepreneurial people. "Work, work, work" - one of the campaign slogans of President Alvaro Uribe, himself a paisa, as natives of Medellín are known - is less an exhortation and more a way of life. The guardians of the paisa commercial spirit can be found among the shareholders, executives and workers of Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño (GEA), one of the largest and most idiosyncratic business groups in Latin America. The company is based in Medellín and is as complex as the city itself. GEA, which once was called the Sindicato Antioqueño, realized some time ago that a large part of its future lies beyond Medellín, and indeed beyond Colombia. As a result, the group's companies...

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