In 1986 Emilio Botín, then aged 52, took over from his father as president of the Banco de Santander, one of many banks that existed in Spain at the time. His leadership has been characterized by daring moves which shook the hitherto staid and comfy Spanish banking scene, with the introduction, for instance, of high-interest accounts and low-interest mortgages, to the accompaniment of aggressive advertising campaigns. This came as quite a shock to the old guard of banking, more accustomed to gentlemanly meetings over lunch where they would discuss how to further squeeze the extra peseta out of the long-suffering Spanish bank customer.
Botín, born in Santander on the north coast of Spain in 1934, was no newcomer to the banking world. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all bankers. Botín, who studied Law and Economics at the University of Duesto in Bilbao, simply recognized that the old ways were not going to work in the new economic environment as Spain joined the mainstream of Europe.
In 1993 his bank absorbed Banesto, and in 1999 it merged with Banco Hispano Americano and Banco Central to become one of Europe's largest financial institutions, BSCH, of which he is co-president with Central Hispano's José María Amusategui. Amusategui is due to retire in 2002, when Botín is scheduled to become sole boss. The merger brought a falling out with Botín's daughter and heir-apparent, Ana Patricia Botín, who went on the join the Morgan bank.
Botín is married to Paloma O'Shea, a patron of the arts, and they have six children. Botín's favorite pastimes are hunting, fishing and golf. In 1999 Forbes put Emilio Botín's net worth at $3.4 billion (down to $1.4 billion in 2001), and he is often listed as the richest man in Spain, although the position is contested by the extremely discreet fashion entrepreneur Amancio Ortega Gaona.
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