Carlos Ardila Lülle, the power of power
The Colombian industrialist built a business group across many different sectors of the economy, including the media and beverages. His influence on politics has been great.
The first step Colombian Carlos Ardila Lülle took in business was to get into beverages.
He was a very young man then, and first worked at his father-in-law's small soda factory, where he innovated with an apple flavor that had a high impact on the market. Eventually, he bought the company and made it very profitable.
From there, Ardila built a powerful business organization that numbers more than 70 companies across various sectors of the economy. To have even further control of the beverage production process, he entered the sugar production business.
Ardila also flexed his muscle in the political and media realms. The business organization that bears his name is the owner of RCN Televisión and RCN Radio, traditional media brands with a presence across Colombian, the Win Sport sports channel, and the economic daily, La República.
Many years ago, Ardila stopped appearing in the media, but his influence on the political and economic life of the country has been notorious.
Since 2002, especially with his television channels, he became an unconditional squire of Álvaro Uribe Vélez (president of Colombia between 2002 and 2010), which included opposition to the negotiation process and the signing of the peace agreement with the FARC- EP, an insurgent group, which waged a 50-year armed conflict in the country.
Even today, he defends Uribe Vélez in legal proceedings for witness tampering and accusations of serious human rights violations, such as the 6,402 extrajudicial executions committed by the Army against innocent people falsely presented as guerrillas killed in combat.
Ardila Lülle was born in Bucaramanga, a city in the northeast of the country, in 1930.
He was a civil engineer and his first great foray as a businessman was in the soda (or sugary drinks) business with Postobón, from where he has competed with Coca Cola. With his products ‘Colombiana’ and ‘Manzana Postobón,’ he became the only direct competitor in the world to Coca Cola, even above Pepsi.
Today, the Ardila Lülle Organization has more than 40,000 employees and has a presence, in addition to the media and beverages, in sectors such as automotive, soccer teams (it owns Atlético Nacional), telecommunications (20 companies), food, agribusiness, textiles and construction.
At the beginning of the 90s, he even decided to enter the beer business, breaking the monopoly of Bavaria, owned by his great competitor, the Santo Domingo Group. His presence in that sector strongly impacted the market due to the effectiveness in customer service. The end of that story is the sale of his brewery to Bavaria.
A little over 30 years ago, he suffered an at-home accident, which left him in a wheelchair forever. Health was an area he dedicated part of his philanthropic work. His contributions to cancer research and treatment created the Carlos Ardila Lülle Cancer Institute, in Bogotá.
Ardila never lived outside Colombia. These days, the Colombian newspaper recalled a phrase from him: “I have lived all my life in Colombia, and despite the great security risks that having my residence in this country means to me, I am convinced that I must stay here, working for Colombia, generating employment, growing with the country, transforming dreams into realities.”