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Cemex fourth-gen Lorenzo Zambrano dies suddenly in Spain

By Jessica Tasman-Jones

Lorenzo Zambrano, the Mexican businessman who turned his family’s cement manufacturer into a multinational company, has died suddenly at the age of 70 in Spain.

According to local media, the fourth-generation chairman and chief executive of Cemex was found by members of staff at his Madrid hotel, after he failed to turn up for a business meeting.

He was not known to be in poor health.

Zambrano never married or had children, and the company has issued a statement saying the board of directors, which includes his cousin and his nephew, will vote on his replacement over the coming days.

Cemex, headquartered in Monterrey, where it was founded in 1906, produces 162 million tonnes of cement each year and has annual revenues of $15.2 billion (€11 billion).

Unlike his father, who never took the helm at Cemex, Zambrano took an early interest in the family business and joined the company right after completing his MBA at Stanford University. He had also completed a degree in mechanical engineering at Tecnológico de Monterrey.

Before Zambrano was appointed chief executive in 1985, aged 41, Cemex was a domestic operation, but he had bold expansion plans and a series of acquisitions extended the company’s reach to five continents, making it one of Latin American’s most successful companies.

In 2007 he completed the risky acquisition of Australia’s Rinker Group, increasing Cemex’s exposure to global construction markets on the eve of the subprime housing crash. As a result, Zambrano pared back Cemex’s assets to stay in control of its debt, and the company’s situation has now stabilised.

Zambrano said it was the worst crisis he ever faced while at the head of the company.

Today Cemex produces, distributes and sells cement, ready-mix concrete, aggregates and building materials in more than 50 countries. Earlier this year Zambrano was recognised as one of CampdenFB’s Top Family Business Leaders for 2014.

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