Javier Valls Taberner (Barcelona, 1930), co-president of Banco Popular between 1989 and 2006, has died this Tuesday in Madrid at the age of 91. He had dedicated 43 years of his life to the now defunct bank, where he began his career in 1963 as adjunct advisor to the presidency. In 1972 he became vice president of the company and from April 25, 1989 to 2004 he shared the presidency with his brother Luis, a position he held until 2006 together with Ángel Ron.
The Barcelona banker had a multidisciplinary background: he graduated in Law in 1952 and studied commercial, legal and banking studies and internships in the United States. He was always in the shadow of his older brother (he led the company for 32 years), but he played a relevant role in the relationship with international shareholders. He was able to do this thanks to his mastery of English — he began his studies in Rome, continued in Pamplona and Barcelona and then moved to the United States for two years, where he learned the language at Columbia University in New York—. In addition, he also spoke French, Italian, Dutch and German, so he had the profile for that position of bank ambassador.
Javier represented Popular in acts of a social nature, as well as before the international organizations with which the financial institution was related. In fact, he belonged to the International Board of Allianz AG and HypoVereinsbank and various foundations. However, in the command structure of Banco Popular he had much less weight than his brother, who was the real Alma mater Of the entity.
Luis and Javier had different skills, but they always knew how to complement each other and formed a successful couple in the golden years of the banking sector. His career always went hand in hand with his older brother, who led the bank until it became one of the most efficient and solvent in Europe thanks to cost control and prudent management (the Valls Taberner brothers always showed misgivings about entering real estate business).
His departure from the entity occurred in 2006, just a month after the death of Luis Valls. So Ron was left with control of the board of directors, the executive committee and the shareholders’ meeting. It was an expected movement, which began to take shape two years before with the arrival of Ron, and was interpreted as an attempt to modernize the entity, traditionally linked to Opus Dei. Until then, the Valls Taberner brothers represented the figure that took care of the investment of the Catholic movement (Luis was a member of the organization, although Javier did not belong to it).
Before coming to Popular, he was a director of La Seda de Barcelona, a director of Banco de Salamanca, president of Unión Popular de Seguros and founding director of Adela, Henninger, Banco Europeo de Negocios and Gas Natural. Javier Valls was one of the last representatives in charge of the executives who led the big banks of the eighties (Banesto, Hispano Americano, Central, Bilbao, Vizcaya, Santander and Popular itself).
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
In addition, the Valls brothers’ tandem were able to enjoy the golden age of the bank —founded in 1926 by Emilio González-Llana— and of the sector as a whole, since it handed over the baton to Ángel Ron in 2006, in the run-up to the Great Recession. Later, due to the entity’s aggressive commitment to the real estate sector, Popular lived through the most convulsive moments in its history that ended with the intervention of the Government and its sale to Santander for one euro due to the risk that it would run out of liquidity to serve customers, already with Emilio Saracho in the presidency.
Javier was married to Cristina Muls Delassue and is the father of two children: Cristina (married to the president of Naturgy, Francisco Reynés) and Luis. He came from a Catalan family of conservative industrialists (his father, Fernando Valls, was a jurist, historian and politician). He liked music, art, culture and travel, in addition to water sports, skiing and golf, as explained by Popular on his departure from the co-presidency.