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By Charles Penty
MADRID - Banco Santander SA, Spain’s biggest bank, named Javier Marin as its new CEO, turning to a leader from a younger generation after Alfredo Saenz resigned.
Marin, 46, is senior executive vice-president of the bank and head of the global insurance, asset management and private banking division, the Santander, Spain-based bank said in a filing to regulators today.
Chairman Emilio Botin, 78, is turning to a former personal aide to lead the day-to-day operations at the bank, which quadrupled its assets by acquiring lenders from the U.K. to Brazil during Saenz’s 11-year tenure. Saenz, 70, who Botin called the “best CEO in banking,” stepped down before the Bank of Spain decided whether he could continue in his post. The Supreme Court in Madrid ruled in February that a government pardon granted to Saenz in 2011 went too far by saying that a criminal record didn’t affect his ability to work in banking.
“Saenz has had these legal issues but I think he has been a great banking professional,” said Alvaro Cuervo, director of the University College of Financial Studies in Madrid. “When a company skips a generation in management, as Santander is doing, it does give the opportunity for dynamism and modernity and that can be positive.”
Santander shares rose 1.9 percent to 5.52 euros at 1:32 p.m. in Madrid today, paring declines this year to 9.5 percent and valuing the lender at almost 60 billion euros ($78.5 billion).
Marin joined Santander in 1991 and became Botin’s personal aide four years later, a spokeswoman for Santander said in a phone interview. He became CEO of Santander’s private banking unit Banif in 2001 and added oversight of the lender’s asset management business in 2009 and insurance in 2010.
“The board of directors expressed its recognition of and gratitude for Alfredo Saenz’s extraordinary achievements since joining the group and, in particular, as chief executive,” the bank said in a statement.
The legal proceedings involving Saenz had cast a shadow over the executive and the bank since 2009 when he was convicted in a case dating back to 1994. The case relates to a lawsuit stemming from his tenure as chairman of Banco Espanol de Credito SA, now a retail banking unit of Santander.
Banesto, as the lender is known, sued a group of businessmen to recover loans in 1994. The defendants filed counter-complaints of false accusation, which a judge decided to investigate, and Saenz was held responsible because he approved the filing of the initial lawsuit.