Juan March Ordinas
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (July 2011)|
|Born||Juan Alberto March Ordinas
October 4, 1880
Santa Margalida, Spain
|Died||March 10, 1962
|Other names||Joan March i Ordinas|
Juan Alberto March Ordinas (4 October 1880 – 10 March 1962) was a Spanish financier, banker and businessman closely associated with the Nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War, and with the regime of Francisco Franco after the war. Juan March was the sixth richest man in the world and the wealthiest in Spain. The family is still nowadays one of the richest in the world.
He was born in Santa Margalida on the island of Majorca. As a young man, he smuggled tobacco from North Africa into Spain. During World War I, he supplied goods to both sides, evading the Allied blockade of the Central Powers, and the German U-boats.
When the monarchy was replaced by the Second Spanish Republic in 1930, March lost his influence, and was convicted and imprisoned for his illegal dealings. He escaped from prison, and fled to Gibraltar where his influence with the British government protected him against extradition.
March was an important backer of the 1936 military rebellion against the Republic. He arranged Franco's flight from the Canary Islands to Spanish Morocco, to bring the colonial troops there into the coup, and personally financed the Italian airlift of those troops to Southern Spain.
With the Nationalist victory in 1939, March regained all his former influence and more, and was greatly favored by the Franco regime. During World War II, the Allies employed him to keep Spain from joining the Axis. According to recently declassified documents, in 1941, the British government gave him US$10,000,000 with which to influence the top Spanish generals.
In 1944, March became a supporter of the claim of Don Juan de Borbón, who had turned pro-Allied, to the Spanish throne. He also owned newspapers and funded political parties.
After World War II, he was the seventh richest man in the world. In 1955, he established the Juan March Foundation to support the arts, music, and social sciences.
Juan March’s son, Bartolome March amassed one of the 20th century greatest art collections. He started buying at a young age a large number of books and manuscripts. Later, he started collecting vastly from 18th century French furniture to Impressionist, modern and contemporary masterpieces of artists such as Goya, Murillo, Velazquez, Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Miro, Kandinsky, Brancusi, Leger, Dali, Fontana, Rothko, Klein, Bacon and many others. They still nowadays have one of the most important and discrete art collections in the world. The collection is reported to be worth over $1 Billion.
March was widely known for involvement in lucrative illegal activities, bribery, political influence, and bending the law whenever he saw a benefit. This was exemplified in his 1948 takeover of the Barcelona Traction, Light, and Power Company (BTLP) for a small fraction of its real worth.
BTLP was a utility company which provided power and streetcar services in Barcelona; originally incorporated in Canada, it was mostly owned by Belgian investors. BTLP had come through the Spanish Civil War largely undamaged, and was quite profitable. Its assets were about £10,000,000 (about $500,000,000 in 2010). However, for the convenience of some of its foreign investors, BTLP had issued some bonds denominated in pounds, and the interest on these bonds was payable in pounds. The Spanish government had imposed currency restrictions: BTLP was unable to exchange its Spanish pesetas for pounds, and so could not pay the interest.
This was not viewed with any great alarm by the bond-holders; BTLP had plenty of pesetas and would pay the interest arrears whenever the currency restrictions were relaxed.
However, March scented an opportunity. Agents secretly acting for him quietly bought up the bonds (about £500,000). Then in February 1948, they appeared in a Spanish court, asserted that BTLP was in default on the bonds, and demanded immediate relief. The judge agreed and awarded ownership of all BTLP's assets to them (in fact to March). BTLP's foreign investors appealed, but got no relief from Spanish courts. The Belgian government appealed to the International Court of Justice but to no avail: the final resolution coming in 1970, eight years after March's death.
There is an example of March's worldwide notoriety in John D. MacDonald's 1962 novel, The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything. At one point, one of the chief villains of the story complains of the difficulties of operating in the United States, where the police are honest and the press interferes. He remarks:
- It was always better elsewhere, particularly in Spain, where Juan March would help with the arrangements.
The March family are still nowadays the richest family in Spain (after Amancio Ortega from Zara). They live between Madrid, Majorca and Gstaad.
- De Benavides, Manuel (1934). El último pirata del mediterraneo ("The Last Pirate of the Mediterranean"), Tipografía Cosmos, Barcelona.
- Garriga, Ramon (1976). Juan March y su tiempo ("Juan March and His Time"), Ed. Planeta, Barcelona.
- Diaz Nosty, Bernardo, (1977). La Irresistible ascensión de Juan March ("The Irresistible Rise of Juan March"), SEDMAY ediciones, Madrid.
- Ferrer Guasp, Pere (2004), Joan March, la cara oculta del poder ("Juan March: the Hidden Face of Power"), Edicions Cort, Palma-Illes Balears.
- Train, John (1985). Famous Financial Fiascos. New York: C.N. Potter. ISBN 0-517-54583-7.