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Automotive leather pioneer dies

A pioneer of the Uruguayan automotive leather industry, Walter Branáa, has died. Mr Branáa ran the  tannery that bore his family’s name in Nuevo París, a district of Montevideo, working first to make leather for footwear and furniture, as Curtiembre Branáa had done since its foundation in 1890.

However, in the 1990s, Walter Branáa decided the company’s future lay in making automotive leather. After working hard to make the necessary adjustments to his production systems, he succeeded in making Branáa the first company outside Germany to make leather for BMW.

His company later became Zenda and, at one point, employed 1,000 people in Uruguay and expanded its operations to Argentina, Mexico, South Africa and Germany. 

By 2012, the Branáa family had sold its stake in the company to Brazilian packer and tanning group Marfrig. One year later, Marfrig sold the company to rival group JBS and Zenda now forms part of the group’s leather division, JBS Couros.

The man whose vision made this possible, Walter Branáa, died at the end of January.

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