Emilio Botín, the chairman of the Spanish banking giant Santander, has died of a heart attack just weeks before his 80th birthday.

Born in the Spainish town of Santander, Emilio Botín-Sanz de Sautuola y García de los Ríos, he was the third generation of bankers in the family. His grandfather, Emilio Botín y López, was Santander’s first chairman in 1920 and thirty years later the baton was passed on to his son, Emilio Botín Sanz de Sautuola y López.

The third in line joined the Santander board in 1960 after completing his studies in law and economics, was appointed as CEO in 1967, and took over from his father as chairman in 1986. Under his leadership, Santander grew to a global player to enjoy a capital of over $120 billion, largely on the back of the acquisition of a number of other banks around the world.

Botín was the driving force behind Santander’s high-visibility sponsorship in Formula 1 over the last eight years, particularly with his support of fellow Spaniard, the two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso. Unusually, the Santander group is a major corporate sponsor of both McLaren and Ferrari, electing to remain with the former despite the Spaniard’s short-lived stint with the Woking outfit in 2007.

“Everyone at McLaren is shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Emilio Botín, the Chairman of the Euro zone’s largest bank, Santander, a McLaren partner since 2007,” McLaren CEO Ron Dennis said in a statement published on the team’s website.

“Passionate and charming, he was firm but always fair. I feel privileged to have known him, and proud to be able to call him a friend.

“He adored motor racing – there was no-one more enthusiastic in the McLaren garage than he was when a race win was in the offing. The world has lost a great man. To his large and loving family, I send my condolences.”

Botín’s his death could have significant implications for Santander’s ongoing commitment to Formula 1, particularly if a restructured board does not continue his enthusiasm for Formula 1 sponsorship.

It is anticipated that his eldest daughter, Ana Botín, will be appointed as Grupo Santander’s new chair. She has served as the CEO of Santander’s UK subsidiary since 2010 and was last year appointed as a director of the Coca-Cola Company.

Image via XPB Images

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.