Loyal to its initial spirit, La Caixa becomes a foundation

After the catastrophe of Spanish savings banks, La Caixa, a centuries-old institution (“more than a bank, more than a caja”) that started in Barcelona although it had branches around the country, is adapting its new social and commercial structure to the new laws. However, it remains loyal to its original spirit, both comercial, financial and social.

In the lower part of the corporate structure we find the third bank of Spain, with a domestic market share of 15% and shares in key foreign banks and Spanish companies (Telefónica and Repsol). In the middle, there’s the holding company Criteria,  the Madrid-listed company it controls with holdings in industrial companies and foreign banks holder of the old La Caixa assets and liabilities.

And on top, clean and brand new, the new Foundation La Caixa, under supervision of the Bank of Spain (respecting Catalonia’s government but without depending on it) due to a dominant financial participation in Caixabank, which is a national entity.

La Caixa Foundation will be financed with the performance of its securities portfolio held in Criteria, which will channel the flow of funds and do the decision-making.

This portfolio has 56% of Caixabank and the classical industrial portfolio of La Caixa, Gas Natural, Abertis, …), real estate assets and debt which were held in Criteria and in the old savings bank transformed now into a foundation.

A long journey of transformation stated by José Vilarasau 20 years ago, despite the opposition from Catalonia’s president Artur Mas, back then right-hand man of Jordi Pujol, who wanted to hunt la Caixa, which refused to be captured.

Mr Vilarasau had to go, to his regret, and his second successor, Isidro Fainé is now completing the undertaken path, with a final result that is very similar to the initial goal.

Among the interesting things about the new model is the foundation Board of Trustees: Isidro Fainé, said to be the most powerful figure in Catalan business, maintains all the power as Chairman of that board and the board of the bank. He is surrounded by confidential people like Jaime Lanaspa, Salvador Alemany, Secretary García-Bragado; personalities of Barcelona society such as Josefina Castellví (oceanographer), Teresa Bassons (pharmaceutical), Javier Godó (editor of La Vanguardia newspaper), notary López Burniol, Frances Homs (who was Minister of economy with Mr Pujol); three members appointed by social and cultural organizations (Red Cross, Caritas…) and by the founding institutions of La Caixa which will take two-year-turns. Also, with three independent members: Carlos Slim, Mexican, partner of la Caixa in several businesses, Chairman of Telefónica César Alierta, and former NATO Secretary general Javier Solana.

About the Author

Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja
Over 30 years working in economic journalism. Fernando was founder and chief-editor at El País, general editor at the business daily Cinco Días, and now teaches at Universidad Carlos III. He's been president of the Madrid Press Association and the Spanish Federation of Press Associations. He's also member of the Spanish press complaints commission.

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