Belmiro de Azevedo, top Portuguese entrepreneur, dies at 79

Belmiro de Azevedo, one of Portugal's most successful businessmen who built his company Sonae into an international conglomerate, has died. He was 79.

In a statement Wednesday, his company said Azevedo died Wednesday, but gave no further details.

Azevedo, who had been ill for several years, became boss of the Sonae manufacturing company, specializing in timber products, in 1967. Over the next 30 years, he built it into the largest non-financial Portuguese company, with operations in Europe, Africa and Latin America. Sonae grew to have interests in telecommunications, media, retail distribution, real estate and tourism.

Portuguese Economy Minister Manuel Caldeira Cabral said Azevedo's death was "a great loss for Portugal."

Azevedo, the eldest of eight children born to a carpenter father and seamstress mother, left a wife and three children.