Ferrovial chairman del Pino mixes love and war

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The Independent Online

Rafael del Pino once said the opportunities for his company were as big as the planet, and this week he demonstrated just how determined he really is by getting so close to securing his most ambitious acquisition to date, the £10.3bn takeover of the airports operator, BAA.

As the executive chairman of Grupo Ferrovial - one of the largest engineering companies in the world - Mr del Pino has fought tooth and nail to stay in pole position in the takeover battle with Goldman Sachs to win control of the UK giant that is responsible for 90 per cent of London's air traffic.

Grupo Ferrovial, one of Spain's largest engineering and construction firms, was founded in 1952 by Mr del Pino's father, who was known as "king of bricks", to build rail networks. (The company's name, Ferrovial, means railway in Spanish.)

The company grew at a steady pace until its appearance on the Spanish stock market in 1999, which sparked a massive expansion under the highly ambitious Mr del Pino junior.

The family still controls 58 per cent of the shares, although Mr Del Pino senior, who is in his mid-eighties, is no longer directly involved. He instead set up a charity dedicated to building Spain's future generation of leaders.

In recent years, Ferrovial has spread to become a global player involved in planes, trains and automobiles. It built the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim museum in Bilbao in the 1990s and is involved in construction projects the world over, including the running of toll roads in Canada and the US, including the Chicago Skyway Bridge.

Ferrovial first came to the notice of many in the UK with its purchase of the engineering group Amey three years ago, which gave it an interest in the Tube Lines consortium running part of the London Underground. The company also holds shares in several international airports and owns Belfast airport outright.

But pursuing BAA in a bid battle that has often involved meetings going on into the late hours has not stopped Mr del Pino,44, from paying attention to his personal life. After a discreet courtship over the past couple of years, he is set to be married on Saturday for the second time, to Astrid Gil Casares, a former JP Morgan executive who is in her thirties. His first wife, with whom he had three children, died some years ago.

This weekend's wedding, which will take place in the church at Chinchon, near Madrid, has been dubbed the financial wedding of the year.

At least 1,000 guests have been invited, many from the business world. The couple have asked the guests to attend in traditional Spanish attire, and the bride's dress has been designed by the well-known Spanish designer, Manuel Mota.