Braulio Medel’s departure from the Unicaja Foundation marks the end of an era. Over more than 30 years he has been president of the savings bank, then the bank and finally the Foundation. He has witnessed the crisis and reconversions of the financial sector from a position of privilege as the most powerful man in banking in Andalucía. Now, amid a series of scandals, government doubts about his integrity and the way shareholdings have been managed, he has gone.
Medel had announced his resignation at Easter, the same way he made most of his announcements: on a public holiday, at night and by press release, without showing his face or taking any questions. But he added one condition: he wanted a report on his suitability to hold the post withdrawn, on the basis that once he was no longer part of the Foundation, the analysis which had been requested by the government would not be necessary.
That condition received approval this week, at the same time as his resignation was accepted and it was decided that José Manuel Domínguez, former secretary of the bank, who retired a few months ago, would replace him.
The controversy over Mendel’s actions as president of the Foundation began with the Ausbanc case, when it was shown that Unicaja had paid one million euros to companies close to Luis Pineda. Then he tried to sell Unicaja to Santander and personally mediated in the negotiations, and he received strong criticism for his close relationship with Manuel Menéndez, former CEO of Liberbank, the banking entity with which Unicaja Banco recently merged.
“He just handed Unicaja over to Liberbank,” many of his critics have claimed, and that is why, in the press release announcing his resignation, Medel blamed his loss of credibility and reputation to “endless external pressure and hostile media campaigns”.
Nevertheless his image had already been tarnished by the merger and his association with Menéndez compromised Manuel Azuaga’s presidency of the bank. But that is all in the past now. The reign of Braulio Mendel, the man who could once do what he liked with nobody saying a word, at the Unicaja Foundation is over.