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Category winner: Strategic Actions in Challenging Times

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This case won the Outstanding New Case Writer Competition at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2019.
The case

Vascode MelloWho – the protagonist

Vasco de Mello, Jose de Mello Group (JMG) President and Brisa Chairman and CEO.


The JMG is one of Portugal’s largest financial groups with interests in various sections of the industry.

They own over 30% of Brisa’s shares, who are Portugal’s main tolled motorway operator. Brisa also have international investments in countries such as India and Brazil.


The JMG was facing a considerable problem during the midst of the Portuguese austerity crisis in 2012, as Brisa’s shares nosedived from €10/share to €3/share.

The Portuguese banks, who hold JMG’s debt, were willing to ride out the storm, but Deutsche Bank, JMG’s main international lender, was exerting high pressure towards renegotiating the Group’s loans and premium.

Brisa’s other two major owners, Abertis and the Arcus fund, also had their concerns.


Brisa’s toll system extended over the whole of Portugal, whilst they also owned stakes in toll firms in Brazil, India, the US and Russia.


The JMG bought shares in Brisa in 2000, before the austerity crisis hit in early 2012.

portugalKey quote

“Portugal’s sovereign debt credit rating was lowered to sub-investment grade (aka ‘garbage’, alongside Greece and Ireland).” – an excerpt from the case outlined the stark nature of Portugal’s economy back in 2012.

What next?

The JMG had a decision to make. Should it invest more in Brisa and keep control, or sell part of its equity and relinquish control?

Interested in finding out more?

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Strategic Actions in Challenging Times
Ref 117-0065-1
Teaching note

Ref 117-0065-8
Supplementary software 

Ref 117-0065-4

The authors

authorsJoão Silva and José Azevedo-Pereira

João discusses filtering data to fit a case study, field research and what he’d do differently next time.

power of the case methodPower of the case method

João said: “ISEG is a great business school, internationally known for its high standards in teaching and research. It is by far the oldest business school in Portugal and has been grooming Portuguese business and economic leaders for over a century.

“ISEG’s outstanding faculty members have been using case studies mainly in a non-systematic way, in accordance with the needs of each course. However, a strategic move towards case study teaching is in place, in some of ISEG’s programs.

“We hope that this award will represent another contribution towards the successful implementation of that effort. We are sure you’ll see more cases from ISEG’s cases soon.”

Making sense of the data

João added: “This was a completely new experience for me, as I have a technological background. With the guidance of my Master’s supervisor – José Azevedo-Pereira – and with the cooperation of key members from José de Mello, I was able to learn about some of the company’s important financial aspects and corporate strategy.

“Due to the huge amount of information available, the most challenging part of writing the case was filtering the data for the most important pieces of information, while at the same time, trying to give the readers a precise idea of the context.”

Looking at things differentlyLooking at things differently

He commented: “José Azevedo-Pereira proposed the theme, since it was something different from what most cases focus on; instead of an IPO, this case highlights a withdrawal from the stock market, as a great strategic move.”

Advantages of field research

He explained: “We wanted to build a case based on validated facts from the company’s managers themselves. There were many contradictions from published sources, and the numbers didn’t always add up. By performing the field research, all our numbers and facts were checked, and the case gained in quality, since it was approved by the company itself.”

He continued: “When writing our next case we will try to be more focused; to quickly identify the most important facts and skim through the unnecessary information.”

Public recognition

João concluded: “We wish to thank The Case Centre for these awards, since they promote and recognise quality work that otherwise would pass under the radar. Living in a country where meritocracy is not always publicly recognised, it is pleasing to know that there are international organisations that still value and reward quality work.”

About the authors

João Marques Silva was at ISEG Lisbon School of Economics & Management when the case was written. He is now an Assistant Professor at ISCTE-IUL.
e joao.silva@iscte-iul.pt

José Azevedo-Pereira is a Professor at ISEG Lisbon School of Economics & Management.
e jpereira@iseg.ulisboa.pt


View all the 2019 winners