Emilio Botín, executive chairman of Banco Santander, has died of a heart attack the company has announced.
Shares in Spain's largest lender fell more than 2 per cent in early trading as the bank said its remuneration would meet later today to start the hunt for a new chairman.
Botín, known to employees as 'El Presidente', oversaw the bank's transformation from provincial lender to the Eurozone's largest by market cap, leading a spending spree in South America in the 1990s, followed by the £9bn buyout of British building society Abbey National - now Santander - in 2004.
The remuneration committee is expected to name his daughter, Ana, who currently heads up the bank's UK operation, as its new leader. If appointed, she will follow in the footsteps of her father, grandfather and great-grandfather, who were all Santander chairmen.