Zapatero, 39 Large Companies and Some Freakstats

by xabier

Zapatero, the Spanish PM, is in trouble. In the eve of his party worst ever election results in Catalonia, the rumours of a possible bail-out of Spain are increasing. In that point, more than two years after the beginning of the financial crisis, he decided to meet a group of the most important Spanish CEOs: the meeting’s goal was not clear nor public, but apparently it sounds to be related with trust at some extent (although is unclear in wich direction the trust should circulate). I am not trying to foresee any outcome for that meeting, for the Catalan elections or even for the financial crisis. I will only pay attention to some odd stats in that list of companies and CEOs.

Drowning by Numbers

The list of CEOs has been increased day after day. The first 30 chosen men became 35 and eventually 39. What is the reason behind that increase? As far as I know, it has remained unexplained thanks to the independent and incisive Spanish media.

Somewhere it is read that minoritary economic sectors have been claimed a chair in the presidential table. But, as we will see, that is the only wrong reason. Of these nine newcomers, none represent a totally new sector. Only Agbar, the water supply company from Barcelona, is slightly different from the precedents, even if some other energy or construction companies are not miles away of its sector. A bank (increasing the list from 5 to 6), a media company (from 1 to 2), or two touristic firms (from 1 to 3) are good examples of this non-reason.

Another possible explanation is the masculine bias of the first list, if totality can be considered a bias. Two women were added in the last week: Petra Mateos, a well-known PSOE-friendly manager who has grown economically under different Socialist administrations’ shadows, and Carmen Riu, the hotels owner, althought it was unclear whether she or her brother were the called by Zapatero to the meeting. That initial lack of women in the first list can be considered as the last nail in the coffin of the former men-women parity advogated by Zapatero, or simply that there are not that much CEO’s women in Spain. But other explanations can be offered.


One of the most striking stats about those 30 first companies called is their geographic concentration. 19 of them, 63 per cent, have their headquarters in Madrid, while that Spanish region is third in population (14 per cent) and only second in GDP (18 per cent). Let’s compare it with Catalonia: it gets 16 per cent of Spanish population (second) and 19 per cent of GDP (first), but only three companies in the list (ten per cent). Or in other words, Madrid was six times more represented than Catalonia, having slightly less population and wealth. Catalonia was not the only punished region in that first list. Andalusia, where Socialists have been in government since the very beginning of democracy, had no companies listed initially: the most populated (18 per cent of Spaniards live there) and the third in GDP (14 per cent).

Yet with Catalan elections on Sunday, the Saturday meeting list should to be emended: of those nine last minute invitees, four have headquarters in Catalonia, and one in Andalusia. Two more come from Balearic Islands and two more from Madrid (one of these, “the” woman). In the graphic, red shapes show the origin of the first 30 companies, and pink ones the nine newcomers. Different shapes mean city size (stars, less than 50,000 inhabitants; circles, less than 250,000 inhabitants; squares, more than that).

The 39 companies selected by Zapatero

The 39 companies selected by Zapatero

Yet it can be argued that large companies tend to be located in the capital city of a given country. Even if this is not always true (and in any case an inocent fact but the result of a process of conscious planning), let’s assume that there is perhaps such a trend. We can pay attention to the birthplace of these CEOs in order to check if that previous link is broken. Like before, intense green are the original 30 invitees, while pale green are the new ones. Shapes keep the same meaning than in the previous graphic.

The 39 CEOs selected by Zapatero

The 39 CEOs selected by Zapatero

From the first list, nine CEOs were born in Madrid, nearly a third of the called. The lack of Catalans is shocking again, and same with Andalusians. There is, obviously, an important random factor in the birthplace. In fact nine of the invitees were born in small towns, some of them under thousand inhabitants. But from a historic perspective it is meaningful at some extent. Young men from ‘the province’ had arrived in the fifties, sixties and seventies to the main cities for making money (succesfully in some cases, as we see). But what is this map saying about the historic Catalan bourgeoisy, and what about the almost silent Madrid one? The correction factor given by the last minute invitees is also quite clear: demagogically speaking, five of these nine men and women can speak Catalan.

Age of Winners

I doubt that the names on the list would had any effect at all in the Catalan election results, but at least is meaningful of at what extent Madrid is a power centre well over its wealth level, and how that centre is quite blind beyond itself when the time comes for gathering the remainings of the Spanish economy, despite the alleged cosmopolitism and openness of Madrid people and companies.

But I would like to add a little comment about the age of those CEOs  (just 37, because I was not able to find the age of Petra Mateos and Santiago Seage — please, help). On the one hand, it is clear that nobody became a relevant CEO after high-school, unless you have a garage in Silicon Valley, but it is also evident that the entrepreneurial class in Spain is quite old (62). Sadly enough, age is not a random factor when it has to be talked about innovation, risk and new ideas for overcoming a period of crisis. There is more people in the list older than 75 than younger than 50. The worryingly largest group of CEOs is between 60 and 65 years old. What should be their opinion about the retirement age, a topic of great discussion in our days?

Age of the CEOs invited

Age of the CEOs invited