Called Silvinho (‘Little Silvio’) since childhood, Senor Abravanel adopted the name Sílvio Santos when he installed a speakers system on the ferry boat that did the transportation between the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Niterói. He had worked in some radios as an announcer, and used the contract termination money in one of them, Continental, to start a new business. Still in the early 1950s, however, he went to São Paulo, accumulating the jobs of broker, salesman and editor of entertainment magazine “Brincadeiras para você”(‘Plays for you’), with crosswords puzzles, charades, jokes, etc. At this time, he also started his “Caravana de Artistas” (‘Artists caravan’), that performed in the city of Sao Paulo and in other cities of the state. In order to improve the business, he look for Antônio Sílvio Cunha Bueno, a federal deputy candidate under Partido Social Democrático (‘Social Democratic Party’ - PSD), to make a deal: Sílvio would produce 40 public space performances with his group of artists, to cheer up the candidate’s speeches, in exchange for a jeep to travel with his caravan.
Senor is the son of a greek immigrant, Alberto Abravanel, with a turkish immigrant, Rebeca Abravanel. At the age of 14, searched for his financial independence selling plastic packages for electoral cards in Rio de Janeiro. His father had a newsstand in his home country and, knowing several languages, negotiated with tourists in Downtown Rio. Still young, Senor ran for a announcer vacancy at Guanabara Radio (today’s Bandeirantes) with 300 other candidates, amongst which Chico Anísio, José Vasconcelos and Celso Teixeira, and ended up obtaining the first place. He considered, however, that the commercial activity was more profitable, and soon returned to the streets, this time selling pens.
In São Paulo, the work as the host of “Caravana de Artistas” drew the attention of Manuel de Nóbrega, father of the TV announcer and comedian Carlos Alberto de Nóbrega, who invited “Sílvio Santos” to participate on his show at Nacional Radio. It was also at this moment that Senor took on the management of “Baú da Felicidade” (‘Happiness Chest’), reshaping a already running enterprise, of forward sale (in 12 monthly installments) of small chests with gifts to be delivered on he following christmas. After that, he created his own show at Nacional Radio, “Vamos brincar de forca” (‘Let’s Play word puzzle’), on which he advertised “Baú da Felicidade”.
The protfits generated by this enterprise aloowed Silvio Santos, that now became a popular name, to buy a slot in programming grid of Paulista TV (Victor Costa Organizations), changing the Radio-based “Vamos brincar de forca” into a TV Show. The host also got the Sunday slot between 12pm and 2pm, a slot then underestimated by Stations. After that, he bought a new slot in the grid, on Thursday nights, to present “Prá ganhar é só rodar” (‘Just Spin and Win’), during which he distributed gifts to clients of “Baú da Felicidade”.
In 1966, Globo Organizations acquired Paulista TV, and Sílvio Santos broadened his space in the programming grid, to a total of four hours, to present the show “Música e Alegria” (‘Music and Joy’). Two years later, renamed “Programa Sílvio Santos” (‘The Sílvio Santos Show’), the attraction had six-hour duration. At the same time, Sílvio hosted a show in Tupi TV called “Cidade Contra Cidade” (‘City versus City’). At that moment, the entrepreneur owned three companies: Baú da Felicidade Utilidades Domésticas e Brinquedos Ltda (‘Happiness Chest Domestic Utilities and Toys Inc.’), Publicidade Sílvio Santos Ltda (‘Sílvio Santos Marketing Inc.’) and Construtora e Comércio Baú da Felicidade Ltda (‘Happiness Chest Construction and Commerce Inc.’)
In the following decade, Globo started reshaping its content, looking to an alleged modernization of its production pattern. From this moment on, there was a certain rejection of auditorium shows and of the populist language employed by Silvio Santos. However, he had high levels of ratings. Besides that, he worked with his own crew and kept control of his shows productions, using the station as a mere broadcast point. These factors contributed to Globo Organization’s president, Roberto Marinho, offering Sílvio a five-year contract extension, but including a clause preventing the entrepreneur of purchasing shares or participating in TV concessions. At this point, “Programa Sílvio Santos” occupied eight hours of Sunday programming.
In order to bypass the contract clause, Sílvio Santos acquired 50% of São Paulo’s Record TV shares in the name of Lucita Gordinho. At the same time, transformed the comyany Publicidade Sílvio Santos Ltda into Estúdios Sílvio Santos Cinema e Televisão Ltda (‘Sílvio Santos Cinema and Television Studios Inc.’), based on Vila Guilherme, São Paulo. In 1975, the businessman made a new acquisition: he participated and won the open contest by General Ernesto geisel’s government for a Rio de Janeiro-based TV channel, channel 11, constituting TVS and finishing his relation with Globo TV (What happened in January 1976). Still, he kept, simultaneously, the broadcast of his own station’s programming, TVS-Rio, and “Programa Sílvio Santos”, broadcast by TVs Record and Tupi, in São Paulo, and by Tupi in Rio de Janeiro (by renting their programming grid).
Sílvio Santos joined Partido da Frente Liberal (‘Liberal Front Party’ - PFL) in 1988, looking to run for São Paulo’s City Hall’s elections. He was not successful. The following year, he had his name launched at the last minute for the presidential elections, from an articulation by PFL’s sectors unhappy with the performance of the party’s candidate, Aureliano Chaves, who could not surpass the limit of 1% of voting intentions. The maneuver was lead by senator Marcondes Gadelha (PFL/PB), leader of President José Sarney’s government in the Federal Senate, and by Armando Correia, a protestant minister and president of Partido Municipalista Brasileiro (‘Brazilian Municipality Party’ - PMB). Sílvio Santos would run under PMB, but the electoral attorney general, Aristides Junqueira, filed for his impugnation based on the fact that the TV announcer had not relinquished the unsuitable positions of director and owner of concessionary public services companies (in his case, his TV stations) in a period of up to three months before the plea, according to what was determined in legislation. Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (‘Superior Electoral Court’ - TSE) decided for the impugnation by seven votes to zero, but based on another argument: PMB had been considered a party in an ilegal situation, for producing conventions in only five states of the federation, while legislation determined a minimum of nine.
The entrepreneur and host is married to Íris Pássaro Abravanel and has six daughters: Cintia Aparecida Vieira Abravanel, Silvia Aparecida Abravanel de Abreu (both from his first marriage with Maria Aparecida Vieira Abravanel, deceased in 1977), Daniela Aparecida Abravanel Beyruti, Patrícia Abravanel, Rebeca Cristina Abravanel and Renata Abravanel.
The whole family works in the Silvio Santos Group’s companies. Íris is the director of Jequiti Cosméticos and author of soap operas. Cíntia managed Teatro Imprensa until its closure, in 2011, but still acts in theartistic parts of the group. She is the mother of actor and singer Tiago Abravanel. Silvia hosts and directs the station’s children’s sector. Patrícia is a TV host, like Rebeca, that also works at Jequiti. Daniela and Renata, on the other hand, are being prepared by Silvio to replace him ahead of the Group. The former is artistic director of television, while the latter is vice president of the conglomerate. Recently, because of it, both were included in the shareholders composition of the concessions kept in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre and Brasília.