November 30, 2020

Manuel Jove dies, the carpenter who created a brick empire and sold a minute before the crisis

The Galician businessman and president of the Inveravante corporation, Manuel Jove, died this morning at his home in A Coruña, after a year of fighting a long illness “against which he has fought hard, true to his character,” according to informed the business corporation.

Jove was known in the business world as the Coruña carpenter who sculpted himself to the Forbes list. The shark that collapsed another big brick fish, Fernando Martín, in 2006, placing the Fadesa real estate agency for 4,000 million euros at the gates of the housing depression.

In 2016 he returned to the brick with Avantespacia, a subsidiary that hung from Inveravante, the multimillion-dollar corporation born from the sale of Fadesa in 2006 to diversify the money received from Martín in hotels, shopping centers, wineries, energy companies and even an oil company in Colombia, and that he created with BBVA. Jove’s dealings with the bank came from behind, from when in 2007 he became the first private shareholder of the entity chaired by Francisco González, now vilified for his dealings with Commissioner José Manuel Villarejo, by taking 5% of the Actions. Despite this, he resigned from sitting on the board of the financial institution.

Born in A Coruña in 1941, he was married and had two children, but in 2002 his oldest daughter, María José, died. Of humble origin, his beginnings were in the carpentry workshop that his father had in A Coruña, where he started working when he was 11 years old. With hardly any studies, he emigrated very young to Germany, but returned to start his company. He failed three times with as many business projects but continued to insist.

Then came the happy 90s and 2000s that lifted him to the top of the real estate podium. In the years before the bubble, he spent buying large bags of rustic soil. Every requalification was a jackpot in the lottery for his bottom line. In their balance sheets, the farms, without building permits, were called “preurbanizable land”. “Pending to deal with the councilman”, as some rival promoter maliciously called them then. There were municipalities that expropriated farms at six euros per square meter that Fadesa then tried to sell as housing in the residential market for foreigners at 240 euros per meter.

Along the way, Jove and her successful developer left behind some bodies. Like the controversial urbanization of Miño (in A Coruña) that led to the ruin of the Town Hall. The Costa Miño Golf sought to build 1,217 homes and plots in the midst of the real estate boom, overlooking an 18-hole course. The Supreme Court ruled that the municipal government had to pay 25 million eeuros to the expropriated neighbors due to the low appraisal that was then made for the land occupied by Fadesa.

The municipality of O Pino, where the A Coruña developer tried to develop a controversial industrial estate next to the Santiago airport, had a similar problem. In the end, it is the city councils (both governed by the PP) that ended up paying the bill.

Long before and in the center of A Coruña, Fadesa obtained an illegal permit in 1997 from the then socialist mayor, Francisco Vázquez, to build one of the tallest buildings in the city. The successive sentences of the Supreme Court that order the demolition of the last floors are still pending execution, with the cost that this will have for the city’s budget.

His business journey, which led him to the list of the richest in Spain (he ranked 12th tied with Florentino Pérez with a patrimony of 2,000 million euros), has left other important holes in the public coffers. This is the case of the fashion company Caramelo, which ends up being liquidated by Jove himself. The businessman bought it on the brink of bankruptcy in 2007 to try to re-float it. He was not able and in the attempt thirty million euros have been consumed in subsidies and credits from the Xunta de Galicia, first with the PSOE and then with the PP.

One of the political leaders who sat down with Jove at various meetings remembers him as “a prudent man who speaks only when he has something to contribute and, unlike others of his kind, always treated you with respect and was aware of politics . He was not a new rich man to use, although I always had the impression that his main virtue is that he knew how to surround himself well. From that head everything he did could not come out. “

Accused of fraud, he won all trials

The businessman won all lawsuits against former Real Madrid president Fernando Martín, the builder with whom he closed the sale of his emporium in just 48 hours in 2006 and who a year and a half later accused him in court of a scam of 1.5 billion euros for an alleged misvaluation of assets. That friendly takeover ended as the rosary of dawn: Fadesa became only a year and a half later the largest bankruptcy in the history of Spain.

The lawsuit over the alleged scam, which Jove won, aired some dirty laundry from the sale. The founder of Fadesa told the judge that in the months after the operation, Martín told him that he needed 200 million euros or would take him to court. Jove interpreted it as a threat but still agreed to buy six hotels in Catalonia and Galicia from Martinsa for that amount.

That, half forced, was not the only real estate operation that Inveravante developed those years: it built a shopping and leisure center in A Coruña (Marineda City) that it opened as one of the largest in Spain and then sold; He developed urban complexes in Casablanca and Tangier (Morocco) where Jove came to be decorated by King Mohamed VI, and carried out operations in Romania, in Mexico, in Brazil with tourist or transport centers.

As if the overwhelming victory of Jove against Martín in the courts was not enough, he also wanted to make clear the rout in the market: in late 2015 the businessman from A Coruña decided to go to the auction and buy back the bankruptcy administrators of Martinsa-Fadesa some land that had already been his. Farms that he had sold in 2006 for 80 million euros he recovered for four million.

Outside of their businesses, the Jove family started a foundation named after their eldest daughter, María José (called to be the heir to management and who died in 2002 of a brain aneurysm) to attend to childhood and people with disabilities and owns an important art collection.

Despite the chiaroscuro of Fadesa, the Jove legend that has prevailed in Galicia is that of the self-made man. The one of the paternalistic businessman who gave parties with orchestra for all his employees once a year and that does not fall into great luxuries: with a yacht, yes, but it is only 20 meters long. And the private jet was just another “working instrument”.

The business shark, those close to him recounted, was an understanding man who has always helped his troubled employees. And that he spent his leisure time building furniture with his own hands in the carpentry shop that he installed in his Culleredo chalet, on the outskirts of A Coruña. The trade he learned from his family in childhood.


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