Did an impostor create an extensive Facebook profile of Brazilian commodities magnate Eike Batista? The billionaire says so, claiming someone put together a page that was updated religiously on a daily basis and boasted hundreds of fans and friends.
"Someone was very dedicated," marvels a Batista spokeswoman during a phone call this morning. "Our lawyers and international team are on it."
For months the Facebook profile in question was updated with links to Batista's companies and announcements ranging from public offerings to his charitable donations and press appearances. Friends formed fan clubs around the page, saying Batista should run for governor of Rio. They asked him for his secret sauce for success.
Two weeks ago, when Forbes released his net worth ($27 billion), placing him as the world's eighth-richest man, the Facebook page was promptly updated with this new victory and his wall filled up with congratulatory fan mail.
"When I grow up I want to be like you," said one "friend."
"Dear Sir, I thank you so much for helping the underprivileged kids in your own country," said another.
Yet his spokeswoman insists: "We had absolutely nothing to do with [the page]. It was a fake." Facebook disabled it this week.
The claim is a bit astonishing. It comes, after all, from a racecar-loving billionaire who hardly hides from the limelight. In the past he's boasted that he had a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren parked inside his Rio de Janeiro mansion's living room. Just a few years ago Batista's sex-symbol ex-wife, former Playboy cover girl Luma de Oliveira, paraded during Carnaval clad in spandex and glitter--and wearing his name proudly on a collar around her neck.
Has Batista suddenly become media-shy? He recently told us that one day soon he'll top off the Forbes list of billionaires.
Batista's company issued a statement Wednesday night that "posts attributed to Mr. Batista were false and not authorised by Mr. Batista." A Facebook spokesman said the company is unable to comment on who creates Facebook profiles.
So who's the alleged impostor?
"We have an idea; our lawyers are looking into it," said the spokeswoman. "We are monitoring this and don't want to call attention to it. We really just want to set the record straight."