Self-Made Heiress Charlene de Carvalho

Michel de Carvalho with Charlene at Heineken headquarters Photo By: Sander Stoepker—Fotograaf

Until her father’s passing, Charlene de Carvalho had no money to her name except a single share of Heineken stock—then worth 25.60 euros, or $32—that her father had given her. Now, as his only child and the sole heir to the Heineken fortune, she was inheriting about 100 million shares, equal to one-quarter of the company’s total stock outstanding. This 25% stake came with voting control, meaning that her single vote outweighed the votes of other investors on any board matter. Charlene had not thought much about her new responsibilities until that dreary morning at the cemetery. As she left her father’s grave, her husband put her on the spot. “Charlene, you have to make a decision within 10 days if you want to inherit the role that your father played.”

What Michel de Carvalho was suggesting was that Charlene, who had had no formal business education, guide the family company that Freddy, even after stepping down as CEO in 1989, had helped build to $9.3 billion in annual revenues. It took Charlene less than a week to respond in the affirmative to her husband’s proposition. With that, she uprooted her tidy life in London, began traveling the globe to study Heineken’s far-flung operations, and learned how to become an effective owner and the guardian of a dynasty.

Read the rest of Charlene’s story at

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