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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Cristiano, Crystal and Clay: Portugal’s Finest Team Up

Updated: Jun 20

Captain of the Portuguese National Team, Cristiano Ronaldo, bought shares in two firms. He is flanked by examples of the companies’ work: Bordallo Pinheiro Grove pheasant plates (right) and Vista Alegre’s bicentenary commemorative Duck Time plate (left).


Duck Time indicates significant references in Vista Alegre’s history. In addition to the 2024 calendar months, it displays a duck, a company symbol of resilience and flexibility because it can swim, fly and walk; the founder, José Ferreira Pinto Basto; 19th-century merchant ships, which represent a family shipping business; camels that once transported ceramics from China to Europe; a football because the founder's great-grandson introduced football to Portugal, and other references, reported Must, Jornal de Negocios (January 19).

(Photo from MaisConsultores)


Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal’s world-renowned footballer, bought 10 percent of Vista Alegre in the 200th year of the fine ceramics and glass firm, reported SIC Notícias (June 14).


CR7 also bought a percentage of shares of the 140-year-old ceramics factory, Bordallo Pinheiro, which was founded by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, a genius of satire and the creator of Zé Povinho, a controversial symbol of the people.


For Vista Alegre, the “large factory for crockery, porcelain, glassware and chemical processes” granted to José Ferreira Pinto Basto by royal license began operating in 1824. However, before porcelain was produced there successfully, it took 11 years of painstaking work and experiments, some of which were carried out in a laboratory in the founder’s Lisbon home, in Largo do Chiado, according to Sábado (July 15, 2023).


At this time, the manufacture of porcelain was still unknown to the Portuguese.


Today, the company produces tableware and decorative porcelain, glass, stainless steel cutlery and high-quality crystal, under the Vista Alegre Atlantis banner.


“The possibility of being able to support the globalization strategy of the Vista Alegre brand as a luxury lifestyle brand is a source of pride for me as a Portuguese,” said the Madeira native, according to a company statement reported by SIC Notícias (June 14).


“Together, we will do everything we can to promote this national icon of excellence and place it at the level of the best brands in the world.”


Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro created vegetables, such as cabbage bowls and plates, and flowers, all with minute detail. He displayed his taste, already demonstrated in caricature, for animals transfigured as humans, which inspired the national treasure, artist Paula Rego (1935-2022), who knew his drawings from seeing them in newspapers at the house of her grandparents, who raised her.


The world-class footballer acquired 10 percent of the capital of Vista Alegre Atlantis, which was valued at 17 million euros, according to MaisConsultores (June 17). He also agreed to acquire, in the next coming days, 30 percent of the capital of Vista Alegre Spain, reported SIC Notícias.


In addition, the parties agreed “to jointly create in equal parts a new company in the Middle East and Asia, whose objective is to grow the Vista Alegre (Ílhavo, Aveiro) and Bordallo Pinheiro (Caldas da Rainha, Leiria) brands in those geographies”.


The famous personality will be important “to accelerate the process of global expansion of brands in the prestige/luxury segment in several international markets, both in retail and premium hotels”.


Ronaldo plays for the Saudi Arabian Al-Nassr Football Club. The 39-year-old has been recognized five times by FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) as the Best Player in the World. The stalwart is playing at a record sixth European Championship beginning this month in Germany.


He described himself as a “regular customer” of Vista Alegre and Bordallo Pinheiro for which he always has had “great admiration”.


Vista Alegre’s foreign market represents about 70 percent of the group’s turnover, with strong sales from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the United States and Brazil.


Vista Alegre’s Public Offering


Last month, Vista Alegre concluded a public offering of bonds maturing on May 20, 2029, reported Eco (May 16).  


“The new bonds have a coupon rate of 5.3 percent and their profitability is also linked to the fulfillment of some objectives related to sustainability by the company until 2028, in which case, if they are not met Vista Alegre will pay additional remuneration of 1.25 euros for each Vista Alegre 2029 bond on the date of reimbursement.”


This offer allowed the company to raise 60 million euros, which will be used to finance its current activity and investment projects. It attracted 2,320 investors, with 64 percent of the subscriptions between 2,500 euros (minimum amount) and 10,000 euros, according to Euronext, reported Eco.


The Vista Alegre Group had sales totaling 129.6 million euros in 2023, reported SIC Notícias.


Family Thanks New Owner


After a restructuring at the end of the last century that placed shareholder control of Vista Alegre back into the hands of the commercial and industrial dynasty of the Ferreira Pinto Basto family, the majority shareholder is now Fernando Campos Nunes, of the Visabeira Group, reported Sábado. Portugal Forbes (June 14) placed Fernando Campos Nunes as the sixth richest man in Portugal with an estimated fortune of 1.35 billion euros.


Bruno Carlos (Ferreira) Pinto Basto Bobone, who worked at the company founded by his great-great-great-great-grandfather, allowed that he had “some nostalgia” for Vista Alegre after losing a bid for it in an auction. However, Bruno Bobone, who presides over the shipping business, Pinto Basto Group, confided to Sábado that “after a few years", he said to the new owner:


“This is probably not very normal, but I want to congratulate you. I’m glad you bought the company because the family would never have made the huge change you made there.”


His first cousin, Carlos Bobone agreed, adding: “Vista Alegre needed to be part of a large economic group”.


Artistic collaborators at Vista Alegre have included Álvaro Siza Vieira, André Carrilho, Christian Lacroix, Joana Vasconcelos, Oscar de la Renta and Pedro Cabrita Reis.


Vista Alegre’s Story

José Ferreira Pinto Basto (1774-1839) was among the most prosperous and influential traders in the Kingdom of Portugal. The license granted by Dom João VI, which authorized Ferreira Pinto Basto to establish Vista Alegre, stated that the founder was “endowed with an entrepreneurial genius, whom difficulties do not embarrass, nor do expenses discourage”.


Indeed, eight years beforehand, Ferreira Pinto Basto had scored the coup of winning the Tobacco and Soap Shops Contract, a million-dollar monopoly. 


The family jewel of Vista Alegre transformed a farm into a village. After 15 years, the factory employed 125 workers, according to economist and historian José Acúrsio das Neves, reported Sabádo. Three of the founder's sons managed the factory.


“José Ferreira Pinto Basto had the ambition of doing a great social work here, giving his employees artistic and scientific instruction, providing them with good housing next to the factory, and forming with them a nucleus united by healthy working relationships,” said Carlos Bobone in a monograph of his family, published in 1997.


As early as 1826, Vista Alegre had a boarding school for both sexes, where students were taught reading and writing, arithmetic and drawing, music and Christian doctrine.  


In 1878, when more than 82 percent of the Portuguese population was illiterate, about a decade later 231 male factory workers were not.


As for the orphans, who were admitted as apprentices: “They were clothed at his expense, taught how to read, write and count and were fed and given a bed,” wrote Bruno Bobone in Do Medo ao Sucesso (From Fear to Success) (2009).


The houses built around the factory complex “guaranteed them decent housing”.  A theater and company also were established “in which workers could participate, in addition to various sports and musical structures”.

The objective of all this “was to ensure the development of each worker, beyond the mere payment of fair remuneration for work. Deep down, he wanted workers and their families to be happy”.


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