A member of the multi-generational family that spawned the first company to produce antibiotics in Spain, and coming with years of his own personal experience, Jaime Grego-Mayor is an expert in matters of board governance and family business.
He is the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Advisory Board Architects, a firm specialising in creating high-impact boards, and recently co-founded Boardology, which produces software to evaluate board meetings.
He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University, is a graduate of the Citicorp Institute for Global Finance and the IESE Business School General Management Program. He also holds a Master’s degree and is a Doctor in Social, Human and Legal Sciences of Universitat Internacional de Catalunya.
Jaime was CEO of Laboratorios LETI, a leading Spanish pharmaceutical company, for more than 15 years. He also held the position of Vice Chairman of the Board and Chair of the Finance, Nominations and M&A committees. He was Chairman of Calzados Royalty, a Spanish shoe retailer and board member and Nominations Committee Chair for Origio A/S, a listed Danish company in the healthcare sector, for six years. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Young Presidents’ Organisation.
In his role as Managing Partner of ABA, Jaime directly manages six boards in Europe and Latin America and has advised companies about their boards around the world. With more than 30 years’ experience on boards, Jaime has long been convinced of the great strategic impact that high-performing boards can have and therefore founded Advisory Board Architects Europe in 2011 and Boardology in 2021 to help companies take their boards to High Impact.
Ahead of chairing Campden Wealth’s 20th Families in Business Forum, held in Barcelona, Spain, from September 19-20, Jaime Grego Mayor delves into the history of his family’s business, walks us through his working day and shares some boardroom advice…
I always find meeting new people, with great stories to tell, extremely enriching.
Where in the world are you right now?
In Barcelona, working away with bright sunlight coming through my office window!
Where would you rather be right now?
I enjoy my work, but on vacation with my family would be very nice.
As chairman of Campden Wealth’s 20th European Families In Business Forum, what are you expecting from the event?
I’m looking forward to learning a lot from our great speakers on a variety of topics that are very pertinent to family businesses in Europe and around the world. I am especially interested in the experience sharing that is going to take place. At these events, I always find meeting new people, with great stories to tell, extremely enriching.
Your family business dates back to 1919, can you talk about its origins?
Laboratorios LETI was founded by my great-grand-uncle on my mother’s side, Pedro Domingo Sanjuan, a scientist and serial entrepreneur, and some fellow scientists in Barcelona. They developed vaccines.
He had to flee to Cuba during the Spanish Civil War, because his brother was a “very red” minister of the Second Republic. As a result his nephew, my grandfather, Federico Mayor Domingo, became very involved in the business and eventually inherited the shares.
The company was the first to produce antibiotics in Spain, which led to lots of growth and profitability. In 1948, with some “encouragement” from the then autarchic Franco regime, it became one of seven businesses to create a joint venture (Antibioticos S.A.) to drive the production of antibiotics more broadly in Spain and my grandfather was chosen to lead it, which he did for 25 years.
The dividends from Antibioticos led to many years of cash-induced stupor at LETI, so that by the 1980’s the business had lost its edge and the now second-generation shareholders were incapable of fixing it. In the early 1980’s, my grandfather asked his son-in-law (my father), who was then a multinational executive to give it a go. My father became CEO, took over the company in an leveraged buyout (LBO) using proceeds from the sale of the Antibioticos stake and LETI became a first-generation family business again. My father gave it a new strategic focus, taking it back to its immunology roots, saved it from bankruptcy, invested in research and development and built it into a leading company in Allergy Immunotherapy and Dermatology.
As co-founder and managing partner of Advisory Board Architects, what does your working day look like?
Varied and entertaining! Our work is to help companies to create and run high-impact boards. We also train board members to create impact in the companies they serve.
Taking today as an example, I am preparing the agenda for an upcoming meeting in Colombia, after that I will finish recommendations for a Greek family business that is creating a new board, then lunch with a family business advisor to prepare an upcoming webinar, and this afternoon I am having a one-on-one training session with a board member who is calling in from San Francisco.
That’s when I’m in the office. My work takes me to different places around the world, though mostly Europe, Latin-America and the Middle East.
You have extensive experience working on boards, what would you say is the right path to follow for family members looking to expand their boardroom knowledge and understanding?
I would encourage family members that will soon be joining a board to ensure they have a detailed onboarding program prior to joining to get them fully up to speed on the company, it’s reality and plans, it’s key executives and operations.
Beyond that is training, reading and experience sharing. There are three parts to that: one is the compliance side, in order to understand the rights, obligations and liabilities of a board member; the second is the operational side, to understand board structure and processes; and the third is communication, learning to lead through influence. Compliance is important, but to me it’s a bare minimum, the other two parts are essential for board members to go beyond compliance to creating impact for the company they serve.
What do you do in your downtime for fun?
I listen to audiobooks (especially history), spend time with my kids and friends and ride my bike. I also have a neglected hobby which is painting and sculpting.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Work hard at developing self-awareness and be true to what makes you happy.
What has been your biggest career challenge to date?
Doubtless starting a business. It’s also been the most intensely edifying and satisfactory.
What keeps you awake at night?
As a student of history, I look forward and see a lot of critical challenges for Western Civilization and the World in general and that makes for recurring worry about what my kids will have to deal with in their lives. It might sound pedantic, but other stuff I feel more able to influence if I work on it.
Jaime Grego Mayor is the chairman of Campden Wealth’s 20th Families in Business Forum, held in Barcelona, Spain, from September 19-20. For further information about the forum, click here or email Liam Smith on email@example.com.