Santander names its finance director as new Abbey chief

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The Independent Online

Santander Central Hispano, Spain's biggest bank, named its finance chief Francisco Gomez-Roldan as chief executive of Abbey National after its takeover, squashing expectations that a British executive would run the bank.

Santander Central Hispano, Spain's biggest bank, named its finance chief Francisco Gomez-Roldan as chief executive of Abbey National after its takeover, squashing expectations that a British executive would run the bank.

The chairman of Santander, Emilio Botin, made the announcement yesterday at a shareholders' meeting which approved a capital increase to fund the £9bn takeover of Abbey. A week ago, Abbey investors backed the deal.

Gathered in the northern Spanish city of Santander, shareholders approved the issue of 1.51 billion shares for the deal, including 100 shares for every Abbey employee as a sweetener.

Mr Gomez-Roldan will succeed Luqman Arnold, who has run Abbey since 2002, on 15 November, the day after the deal is expected to be complete. The Financial Services Authority has already said it sees no "material" barrier to approving the takeover. Abbey's chairman Lord Burns will stay on. Mr Arnold, who had announced that he would leave after the deal, will continue to work with Santander as a senior adviser to Mr Botin.

Previously, Santander had always appointed local managers to head the businesses it acquired in Latin America over the years. A spokesman for Santander said: "One of the key things underpinning the deal is they are bringing to Abbey their systems. This is about the integration of the two banks."

Mr Gomez-Roldan is a former head of Santander's Banesto unit, where he oversaw the development and implementation of the Parthenon technology that will be installed at Abbey branches. Martin Cross, an analyst at Teather & Greenwood, said the appointment of a Spaniard went "counter to the previous spin" adding:"I suppose Mr Botin wants his own man, someone who knows the business" and is "untroubled by parochial loyalties".

Mr Botin, 70, who generally restricts shareholders' speaking time at meetings to five minutes, was keen to point out the difference between the Abbey purchase and Santander's 2000 merger with Central Hispano. The merger led to big pay-offs to former Central Hispano executives, and a court case in which Mr Botin and two former board members face misappropriation charges over the "golden parachute" payments.

Mr Botin, whose family has led Santander for three generations, told shareholders the Abbey deal was a "purchase, not a merger".

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