On October 9, 1920, Norberto Odebrecht was born in the city of Recife, the state capital of Pernambuco. The son of Emílio and Hertha Odebrecht, he arrived in Salvador, Bahia, at the age of five after his family identified that city as having a promising construction market. As a child, he learned important and valuable lessons for his career and life, such as the value of service, ethics and discipline, from his parents and his tutor, Pastor Otto Arnold.
At 14, he began working in the workshops of his father's company, Emílio Odebrecht & Cia., where he interacted with and learned from supervisors and workers. He enrolled in the Salvador Polytechnic’s Engineering School at the age of 18 and took the helm of the company three years later. He had to juggle work, his studies and compulsory military service. Even so, he graduated in 1943.
In August 1944, he founded the Construtora Norberto Odebrecht construction firm and began operating fully as an entrepreneur. Over the years, he established partnerships that made it possible to operate in other Northeastern states. In the 60s, Norberto expanded the company nationwide, diversified its operations over the next decade and began the international expansion of its businesses.
While President of the company, in 1965 he created the Odebrecht Foundation, which currently supports social development projects in the Southern Bahia Lowlands. Furthermore, in 1968, he began systemizing his acquired knowledge by publishing several books: What do We Need? (1968), Points of Reference (1970), Survival, Growth and Perpetuity (1983), and Education through Work (1991). Survival, Growth and Perpetuity systemized the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology - the principles, concepts and standards used throughout the Group’s operations.
In 1991, Norberto Odebrecht transferred the presidency of Odebrecht S.A. to his son Emílio Odebrecht. The Group’s Founder then became Chairman of the Board, a position he later transferred to his son Emílio in 1998. After that, he was Honorary Chairman of Odebrecht S.A. and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Odebrecht Foundation, as well as a member of the National Academy of Engineering.