Business

Argentina's art-loving property multimillionaire

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Media captionEduardo Costantini has built large swathes of Buenos Aires but it is his art collection that is his passion

One of 13 children, multimillionaire businessman Eduardo Costantini initially tried being a troublemaker to get his busy father to notice him.

Born into a middle-class family in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and with a dad who juggled three jobs to support everyone, the young Eduardo simply wanted more attention.

Yet he soon found out that he wasn't cut out for being a rebel and getting in trouble.

Thankfully, he then discovered he had a skill that would impress his father - he was rather good at doing business.

"I used to take fruits and nuts from the trees, and then sell them to the ice cream maker, or I used to buy sweets and re-sell them, those were my first micro-business ventures," he says.

Image copyright Eduardo Costantini
Image caption The young Eduardo Costantini showed an entrepreneurial spirit

That was six decades ago. Today Mr Costantini is 68 years old, and the self-made boss of an investment and property development empire which stretches from Argentina to the US.

He is considered a guru in Argentina for his ability to predict financial trends.

An avid art collector, he also owns one of the largest collections of Latin American art, which is housed in a museum he built in Buenos Aires in the 1990s.

Yet for all Mr Costantini's successes, there have been failures and controversies along the way.

Studying abroad

After leaving school Mr Costantini did an economics degree at the Catholic University of Argentina in Buenos Aires, graduating in 1971. He then moved to the UK to do a masters in the same subject at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

Upon returning to Argentina, Mr Costantini started his business empire in 1975, when he launched his own investment business, Consultatio.

He used the profits to start buying up property, which he then developed and sold on at a higher price.

Image copyright Consultatio
Image caption His company is building a new tower (artist's impression on the left) in central Buenos Aires

By the end of the 1970s business was thriving, and Consultatio's property arm has gone on to help build sizeable new suburbs in Buenos Aires.

And from 1991 to 1993 Mr Costantini found the time to serve as vice president of one of Argentina's largest banks, BBVA Banco Frances.

Love of art

But if Mr Costantini's successful day job involves investment and property development, his passion is collecting art.

I think that life, after all, is a collection of different moments and aspects that you have to build with patience and perseverance

Eduardo Costantini, Property developer and art collector

"One day I saw this gallery where I really liked the works of Argentine artist Antonio Berni," he says.

"So I got in and bought my first two paintings. And I couldn't stay away from art since then."

He has since gone on to build a big collection of paintings and other art works from across Latin America.

But rather than lock them away, in 2001 he opened the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires, or Malba, a futuristic building that he paid for.

Image copyright Eduardo Costantini
Image caption Mr Costantini built the museum to house his collection of Latin American artwork
Image copyright Eduardo Costantini
Image caption The museum is a popular attraction in the Argentine capital

While such philanthropy has been welcomed by commentators in Argentina, some of Mr Costantini's developments have faced criticism, such as the upmarket new north Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Nordelta.

Unwelcome residents

Built on former swampland in 1999, the large gated community has more than 40,000 residents, who have their own luxury harbour, shopping malls, sports clubs and medical centre.

Only one hour away from the buzz of central Buenos Aires, but a world apart, peaceful and relaxed Nordelta is home to football players, TV celebrities and business people.

Image copyright Consultatio
Image caption The vast Nordelta development has come in for criticism

Yet Nordelta has also had some unwelcome residents.

The development is sometimes dubbed a haven for Latin American drug dealers who are looking for a discreet retreat for their families. And in recent years some suspected drug traffickers have been arrested there.

Mr Costantini says he is worried about such things, adding that he is working with the authorities to find out the identity of such people, whom he says are a very small number of residents.

He has also faced criticism for only focusing on the expensive end of the property market, but Mr Costantini says he simply enjoys building "high-end projects that are aimed at those who can afford to pay a little more".


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New York woe

In terms of overseas property developments, Mr Costantini's main focuses are neighbouring Uruguay and the US.

His American developments are centred on Florida, where he is building luxurious apartment complexes in Miami.

Image copyright Consultatio
Image caption Mr Costantini now has two projects under construction in Miami

Yet he wasn't always so successful in the US, and looks back on a failed attempt to establish himself as an investor in New York.

"I had this utopian idea of trying to establish myself in New York in the 80s... so I moved there with my family," he says.

"But I was like [the legend of] Don Quixote fighting against the windmills, because all the big fishes like Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs were already there.

"So basically, the Big Apple didn't accept me. I came back to Argentina and to my business after a few months."

Despite the failure, he says he has no regrets.

"I could go back now [to New York], I have the money and the expertise, but I think I made the right decision."

Instead he is focusing on his developments in Miami, and building one of the newest skyscrapers in downtown Buenos Aires.

Looking back on his long career so far, he says: "I think that life, after all, is a collection of different moments and aspects that you have to build with patience and perseverance."

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