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Botín’s family favourites rise on their merits

SPAIN

Banco Santander has grown from a regional player into the largest retail bank in Spain and a formidable force among European banks but some things never change. Emilio Botín's highly personalized style of management is one of them. The sudden resignation last month of his respected CEO, Angel Corcóstegui, has given Botín a free rein as Santander Central Hispano's executive chairman to tighten the dynastic grip over the banking group. In a move that surely lines her up for the future top spot, Botín has brought his daughter, Ana Patricia, back into the frame, appointing her chairman of Banesto (Banco Español de Crédito), the medium-size retail bank bought by Santander in 1994. Emilio's brother Jaime, chairman of Bankinter, a rival bank, was also named first vice-chairman of SCH and Ana Patricia's brother "little Emilio" already has a seat on the board.

This certainly looks like nepotism. Ana Patricia, an investment banker by training, has always been expected to take over the Botín family business eventually. However, she was forced to resign from the newly merged Banco Santander Central Hispano in 1999 because of an article in the Spanish press portraying a power struggle between her and Corcóstegui - who came from the Central Hispano side - which she lost.

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