Spanish banking titan Emilio Botin dead at age 79

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

MADRID (AP) — Spanish banking magnate Emilio Botin, who built the country's Banco Santander into a global financial giant and was widely seen as the nation's most influential business leader, has died of a heart attack, the company said Wednesday. He was 79.

Botin was known for his hands-on leadership of the bank and turned the institution previously run by his father into the eurozone's largest by market capitalization through a series of acquisitions. He also transformed it into a major banking player in Latin America.

Botin was known for visiting bank branches to meet with employees and had huge influence in political circles in Spain and abroad, rubbing shoulders frequently with Spain's royalty and prime ministers and Latin American heads of state.

Bank parent company Grupo Santander said in a statement that its board will meet Wednesday to name Botin's successor as chairman.

A bank spokeswoman said he died Tuesday night after suffering a heart attack at his home. She spoke on condition of anonymity because of company rules preventing her from being named.

The bank's 10 main markets are in Spain, Brazil, Britain, Mexico, Portugal, Germany, Chile, Argentina, Poland and the United States. It has 102 million customers and more than 186,000 employees.

Santander's shares were down 1.8 percent in morning trading in Madrid on Wednesday while Spain's main stock index slipped 1 percent.