c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — The flagship company of Brazilian entrepreneur Eike Batista, who once boasted that he was on his way to becoming the richest man in the world, filed for bankruptcy Wednesday.

The filing by the petroleum company OGX was a stunning fall for Batista, who was once a symbol of Brazil’s rapid rise as a global economic power but more recently has come to represent a Brazilian elite that views itself as above the rules that govern most of the country.

The bankruptcy filing was the culmination of a decline that had been apparent for months. It became nearly certain after OGX missed a $45 million bond payment Oct. 1. According to papers filed with the Court of Justice of Rio de Janeiro, the company’s total debt is 11.2 billion reals ($5.1 billion), making this filing the largest corporate default in the history of Latin America.

The company owes $3.6 billion to bondholders, most of them foreigners, with the rest of the debt to suppliers and banks.

PIMCO, the world’s largest bond investor, and BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, both invested in OGX and stand to lose from any bankruptcy filing.

Batista’s rise and fall closely mirrors the fortunes of his country, which was growing rapidly a couple of years ago, driven by the worldwide boom in commodities, but has since faltered. The Brazilian stock market has fallen more than 11 percent this year, even as the major stock markets around the world have been gaining. And street protests this summer reflected Brazilians’ resentment that the government had channeled resources to projects controlled by tycoons like Batista.

On Wednesday, his countrymen seemed to be watching Batista’s downfall with glee, with websites and Twitter accounts filled with jokes about his travails.

Márcio Costa, a partner in the Rio de Janeiro law firm Sérgio Bermudes, which handled the bankruptcy filing, said Wednesday, “OGX has high debts, but restructured, the assets are sufficient for the company to be viable.” He said he was optimistic that negotiations with creditors would be successful.

Documents released Tuesday on OGX’s website indicate that the company will run out of cash in December and needs $250 million in new money to continue operations through April 2014.

Batista’s personal worth, which at one point last year exceeded $30 billion, is now estimated at well under $1 billion. Minority shareholders in OGX are suing both the company and Batista for what may have been misleading statements about OGX’s supposed petroleum finds and for possible instances of insider trading.