Santander chairman Emilio Botin dies of heart attack

Emilio Botin, one of Spain's most powerful men who transformed Santander from a small domestic lender into the euro zone's biggest bank, has died of a heart attack at age 79, a spokesman for the bank said Wednesday.

Botin died Tuesday night. The bank will hold a board meeting on Wednesday to nominate a successor, it said in a statement. Shares in the bank fell 2 percent to 7.6 euros on the news.

Emilio Botin
Ron Antonelli | Getty Images
Emilio Botin

A straight-talking disciplinarian, Botin used his keen eye for a deal to spread the red-liveried Santander brand with its stylised 'S' logo around the world, amassing 1.4 trillion euros ($1.8 trillion) of funds and nearly 200,000 employees.

Under Botin's stewardship, Santander led a buying spree in Latin America in the 1990s and changed the face of Spanish banking in 2004 with the purchase of British lender Abbey National for more than 9 billion pounds ($14.5 billion).

His father and grandfather, both also named Emilio, were also chairmen of Santander. His eldest daughter, Ana Botin, heads the group's British business and is widely expected to succeed him as bank chairwoman.

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