Skip to main content

Santander Must Pay 'Lionel Messi of Banking' $76M For Botched Hiring, Court Rules

Santander withdrew the offer for Andrea Orcel to lead Spain's biggest bank after discovering how much his salary and shares would cost.

A Spanish court ordered the Banco Santander SA ( (SAN) - Get Banco Santander SA Report) to pay €67.8 million for reneging on its offer to make banker Andrea Orcel its CEO.

In 2019, Spain's largest bank withdrew an offer to make Orcel its chief executive after it said a payout of €50 million for his salary and the shares that he would leave behind at former employer UBS Group AG ( (UBS) - Get UBS Group AG Report) was too high.

Orcel then launched a lawsuit suing Santander for damages and claiming that the bank "destroyed [his] career, [his] reputation and inflicted very high economic damage." 

He was soon hired to lead the Italian UniCredit SpA.

On Friday, Reuters reported that the court found that Orcel's four-page offer letter was a contract under Spanish law. 

Scroll to Continue

TheStreet Recommends

Orcel is, the judge rules, entitled to a €17 million sign-in bonus, €35 million in buyout from UBS, €5.8 million in two years' salary and €10 million for moral and reputational damage. The total adds up to 67.8 euros or approximately $76.42 million.

Santander reacted to the ruling by saying it is confident it "will be successful on appeal," which it would have to file within the next 20 days. 

Ana Botín, the Santander executive chairman who withdrew the offer, was formerly a close banking colleague said to have specifically scouted Orcel for the role. 

Reuters reports that feud between Botin and Orcel exacerbated the rift in a powerful banking alliance — Orcel was one of the top investment advisers to Botín's father, Emilio Botín, and was slated to change the family-run bank.

"In a civil court, such an amount is not unheard of," Eduardo Alonso of A&M Asociados told Reuters. "The amount seems outrageous but he seems to be the Lionel Messi of banking."