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Emilio Botín voted Campden FB Family Business Leader of 2008

Campden FB's inaugural search to find 2008's Family Business Leader of the Year has been won by Santander chairman Emilio Botín (pictured). In an online poll voted for by Campden FB readers, the Spanish banking patriarch pipped James Murdoch and Carlos Slim Helu into joint second place.

Despite being in one of the worst sectors during the credit crunch, Botín has turned Santander into one of the largest and most profitable banks in Europe, winning plaudits for the way he has run the company.

The Botín family has led the bank since 1857, and Emilio took over from his father as president in 1986.

Speaking in June of his company's values and method of management, and referring to the bank's low gearing and lack of exposure to toxic subprime assets, he said: "The traditional caution of Santander in risk management has enabled us to avoid the losses that many big banks around the world have had."

Although he snapped up rivals, such as mortgage lender Bradford and Bingley and building society Alliance and Leicester at a remarkably low rate, and confidently predicted that Santander would make €10 billion in profits this year, things haven't always been easy.

In November, he was forced to increase Santander's capital by €7.2 billion through a deeply discounted rights issue, as the company's share price was roughly halved during the year.

However, commenting on the current financial crisis, Botín admitted it is "probably the most difficult times seen by a whole generation of bankers," and surviving to the extent that it has should rightly be regarded as a success.

Botín attributes much of his success to "the Santander Brand," which he declares is the "banner and substance of global differentiation". We can take part of this differentiation to be the founding family's guiding vision – a vision that has been sadly lacking in financial circles at the current time.

He was followed in the poll by James Murdoch and Carlos Slim Helu in joint second place. James Murdoch has become a name in his own right this year after stepping out of father's shadow. He became chairman and CEO of News Corporation Europe and Asia, whilst father Rupert has been struggling with his ownership of the Wall Street Journal.

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu had a good beginning to the year as he was named the world's wealthiest family business owner and second wealthiest man on the planet. Also worthy of note is his investment in The New York Times, plus the millions he gave to charity through the Carlos Slim foundation.

Special mention must also go to Maria Elizabeth Schaffler, matriarch of family-owned Schaeffler, who led the daring takeover of tyre-maker Continental. Equally, Ratan Tata, chairman of Indian conglomerate Tata
Group, launched the innovative "people's car" and also bought luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover.

We can congratulate them all on a job well done.

Campden FB Family Business Leader of the Year 2008

1. Emilio Boitin (20%)
=2. James Murdoch (16%)
=2. Carlos Slim Helu (16%)

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