Spanish PE industry reacts to pioneer Loizaga’s death

Leading figures of the country's private equity industry pay tribute to José Maria Loizaga Viguri, a founding father of Spanish private equity, who passed away after contracting the coronavirus.

Jose Maria Loizaga, Moira Capital Partners
Loizaga: founded one of Spain’s first PE firms, Mercapital, in 1985

José María Loizaga Viguri, a pioneer of Spanish private equity, died on Sunday – a victim of the coronavirus.

Loizaga, 84, is widely credited as one of the founding fathers of Spanish PE, having established Madrid-based buyout firm Mercapital in 1985. The firm is known for having been the first Spanish PE shop to have a presence in Latin America. In its 27 years of history, Mercapital invested more than €1.5 billion across 115 companies, including 62 platform deals and 53 add-on acquisitions.

Loizaga, who led Mercapital until 2008, played an instrumental part in the internationalisation of mid-sized Spanish companies, mainly into Latin America. The firm merged with N+1 Private Equity, now Alantra, in 2012.

He was most recently vice-president and board member of infrastructure company ACS Group. He was also a senior partner at Moira Capital Partners, a private equity firm managed by his son Javier.

From just a handful of firms in the 1980s, Spanish private equity and venture capital has grown to 130 domestic and international players that ended 2019 with a record €8.5 billion of deals in one year and domestic capital raising of €1.8 billion, according to industry association ASCRI.

Loizaga’s son Javier paid tribute to his father in a LinkedIn post on Monday, in which he said the Spanish industry titan had “fallen victim to the cruel covid-19”. He wrote that his father had “never stopped working in what was his lifelong passion: the company”, and that he was “full of health, enthusiasm and the life force … and was strong as a bull only three weeks ago”.

“He was a reference for many, many Spanish professionals and taught me everything I know … and all this with an unwavering work ethic, while showing a humanity that touched everyone. I’ll miss him for the rest of my life.”

Miguel Zurita, chairman of ASCRI, said the Spanish PE industry and the whole business community was desolated by the tragic loss of Loizaga: “José María lived and loved with intensity, his family above all. It is impossible to summarise his long and fruitful professional career in a few lines.

“Always a forward thinker, he was a passionate business builder. After a unique and successful career that combined top senior positions in financial and industrial companies, he decided to launch Mercapital that pioneered the private equity industry in Spain.”

Zurita continued by saying that Mercapital epitomised Loizaga’s vision of how to support and accelerate long-term value creation in companies.

“He did not import private equity as it was known in other parts of the world – very much focused on financial engineering – but implemented his vision of deep sector knowledge and operational expertise for long-term growth. Mercapital became, as well, the breeding ground for many of the senior professionals in the industry today. I had the privilege of having José María as my jefe [leader]. Always brutally sincere, intellectually honest to the extreme, and someone whose common sense and intuition will always be remembered and now sadly missed.”

Ramon Carne and Nicolas Jimenez-Ugarte, managing partners of Artá Capital, said: “We deeply regret the death of José María. As founder of Mercapital he launched the private equity industry in Spain. He was a mentor to many of us who had the privilege of working with him. We will miss him greatly and remember his many achievements helping Spanish companies grow.”

Madrid-based ACS Group also mourned the loss of its board member Loizaga in a statement on Monday, noting that he was one “of our great executives, who dedicated a very important part of his life to the projection and expansion of the group as a world leader in infrastructure”.

Loizaga, who was born in Bilbao in 1936, began his career in banking and led high-profile mergers in Spain’s financial industry. Between 1980 and 1985 he created Banco Hispano Industrial, in addition to merging and restructuring the two largest industrial banks in Spain at that time: Banco Unión and Banco Urquijo. He also served as director of the IBEX 35, the benchmark stock market index of the Bolsa de Madrid, Spain’s principal stock exchange.

An avid fan of Don Quixote, Loizaga’s remains will be scattered on the plains of La Mancha, his son Javier wrote in his social media account.

See all of Private Equity International’s coverage of covid-19 and its impact.