William and Wilson Ling are shareholders and board members of Petropar S.A., one of the major producers of aluminum beverage cans and plastic closures in Brazil, and the world’s second largest supplier of lightweight spunmelt nonwovens fabrics for disposable hygiene applications.
Kaizen: To start with your background and how Petropar began. You were born in Brazil?
Wilson: All four Ling siblings are Brazilian—Winston (born 1955), William (1957), Rosa (1959), and Wilson (1961).
Kaizen: Your parents immigrated from China in the 1950s?
William: Our father, Sheun Ming Ling, was born in Beijing in 1921 and was raised in Wenzhou. He left China in 1948, in the wake of the communist revolution, first to Taiwan. In early 1950 he went to Hong Kong where he met Lydia Wong who was born in 1928, in Shanghai.
Our father wasn’t educated in a formal school; he was homeschooled. It was usual at that time for families to do homeschooling. So basically his education was at home with private tutors.
He lost his father when he was young—at age 12. So he stopped studying and started working as an apprentice. He joined the China Vegetable Oil Company (CVOC), which was a large entity with state and private ownership that had a virtual monopoly in the vegetable oil industry. It was there where he acquired all his experience in this industry. But he always worked as an accountant or as an auditor. He wasn’t involved in operations. He knew the operations from his work as an auditor.