Alfredo Saenz, the 70-year-old chief executive of banking giant Santander, stepped down yesterday after a lengthy legal battle over whether he should be barred from banking due to a criminal conviction.
Saenz was under intense pressure from Spain’s central bank, which was looking into whether he was fit to continue as a banker under new regulatory rules.
Santander said in a statement that Saenz, who has worked closely with chairman Emilio Botin for 20 years, was stepping down voluntarily from the bank.
In an extraordinary meeting yesterday, Santander’s board named Javier Marin, a 46-year-old Botin confidante who has held several executive positions within the group, as the bank’s new chief executive.
Saenz was seen as a skilled retail banker, while Botin was the dealmaker. Together they transformed the bank from a regional lender to an international powerhouse.
Saenz’s stepping down lets the central bank off the hook in making a tough decision after a number of conflicting decisions by courts and the government.
“This is a very positive decision for banking stability and for Santander,” a central bank source said. Saenz was convicted in 2009 for making false accusations against debtors when he headed Banesto bank, now part of Santander.