Biography of Jesús de Polanco (1929-2007)

Jesus de Polanco

Lawyer, editor and communications entrepreneur, born in Madrid on November 7, 1929 and died in the same city, on July 21, 2007.

Family originally from Cantabria, his early life were linked to the Civil war that got to spend in the city of Barcelona, after leaving Madrid in the early days of the contest. During his youth, he worked in the Institute of Hispanic culture, alternating his collaborations with studies of law and political sciences at the Complutense University in the capital. During these early years the publishing world absorbed him completely and together with his brother launched some initiatives such as the promotion of journals (edited by Bishop and later by Escelicer) theatre and customs.

In 1958, he opted for a new and more ambitious project and founded the publisher Santillana which, two years later, became a joint-stock company with participation in the ownership of several contributors to Polanco. Legal and educational manuals were the main business of the company, which soon expanded his horizon to the American market, consolidating a solid corporate infrastructure in the new continent since the early 1960s. From New York to Chile, the Group wove a solid network of businesses that opened new expectations publishers.

With the General Education Act of 1970, Santillana managed to take off in Spain editing textbooks for basic and secondary education. The expansion and growth of the company encouraged Polanco to create in 1972 rudder, a group of companies that will be incorporated progressively publishers such as Taurus, Aguilar, Alfaguara and Altea, among others, as well as distributors such as Ithaca and various utilities (Eductrade, Sanitrade, etc.).

The publishing world had secrets to Polanco in the early 1970s, which Madrid businessman received a proposal from José Ortega Spottorno, son of the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, to form part of a journalistic project. In 1972, and together with Darío Valcárcel, Carlos Mendo, Ramón Jordán and Juan José de Carlos, constituted the Promotora de Informaciones society anonymous (better known by PRISA), editor of a new newspaper called the country that, by political problems, delayed its viability until the end of 1975. Under the direction of Juan Luis Cebrián, was finally launched the journalistic machinery that allowed to, may 4, 1976, come out to the street the first issue of the new Rotary. In a few years, became the first national newspaper of general information.

Despite the principle of independence that motivated the founding of the society, in those years of political transition, there were strong internal tensions among the shareholders and gradually shares were concentrated in an ever smaller group of them. In 1981, Polanco already controlled the majority package of actions and in 1983 his detractors sold his titles and left the meeting of shareholders. Under undisputed leadership of businessman Madrid, PRISA became from that moment the reference of a group of leading companies in the Spanish panorama information. Thus, he edited the sports daily As and economic five days, appeared the Barcelona Edition of El País (1982) and also international (1983) and in 1984 became shareholders of the Cadena SER, which ended up controlling a decade later in its entirety.

Jesús de Polanco, named President of PRISA in 1984, began to become Spanish communication magnate. The country has been consolidated as daily leader with new own editions in Andalusia and Valencia, Mexico and Buenos Aires. In addition a strong commitment to enhance and modernize the be, Polanco presided over since 1989, became to the chain in the main radio reference of the country and quickly prepared his foray into the field of television. This starts Sogetel and, the Spanish society of Television Canal + (1989), a pay channel that began airing in June 1990, at the time that made it in emission open the other two private channels approved by the Socialist Government (Tele 5 and Antena 3 Television). In 1993, with the same shareholders of Canal +, Polanco created Sogecable company to be issued via satellite channels also payment as Documanía, Cinemania, Minimax, Cineclasic and events.

The initiatives of Polanco received severe criticism in some Spanish political and business sectors who saw the Government of Felipe González favoured, without any reservations, the concentration of media in favour of businessman Madrid. The controversial acquisition of antenna 3 Radio (1992) hit the criticisms. Overcome the legal difficulties of this latest purchase, Jesús de Polanco began to open horizons abroad: Great Britain (The Independent), Mexico (La Prensa, El País) and Portugal (public), among others. Other projects, however, not be as profitable as expected.

Always willing to be the first in the line-out, HURRY, through Canal +, signed an agreement with Telefonica in July 1995 for the distribution of audiovisual programmes by cable through cable. This agreement was openly criticized by other companies and media groups, reaching the Court of competition and the European Commission. While the legislation was adapted to the new brackets that were appearing in the field of telecommunications, Polanco drove the platform Canal Satellite Digital (CSD), which entered the Spanish market alone to performing a varied content which benefited, immediately, much of the subscribers who had Canal +. Taking advantage of its presence in the new market (the start-up of its competitor Via Digital will delay several months), deployed a great activity to hire the best film funds for its broadcasts. In February 1998, Canal Satélite Digital signed with nine banks an international credit of 60 billion pesetas to finance development and operations which wants to take a place in the next four years.

Other challenges driven by Polanco was the agreement between PRISA and Caracol Radio to organize a group of issuers in Miami, the Alliance with several provincial newspapers to exploit informational synergies, the launch of the Gran Via Musical project or the record label MuXXIc Latina.

Without a doubt, Jesús de Polanco was the man of the communication in Spain, a figure he projected his shadow in the world publishing, journalism, radio, television and film. The scale of their groups - HURRY (with more than 60 companies that participate with different shareholding percentage, but which in turn is diversified in other many), rudder and Santillana Group (which includes numerous publishing houses, distributors, central purchasing, etc.)-allowed him to overcome the 140 billion pesetas of annual turnover, far away from the other Spanish groups (mail, Recoletos, Zeta).

In November 1998, he was awarded the medal to the merit publishing of the XII International Fair of the book of Guadalajara (Mexico), an award that distinguished him as the editor in the promotion of the book and intellectual development. Also he received in 1994 the Juan Lladó Award for their support to culture and in 1997 was invested doctor honoris causa by American Brown University. In 2003 he received the Montblanc Prize to the patronage of the arts, and in June 2004 he was appointed officer of the order national of the Legion of Honor French, "in fair reward for a brilliant personal trajectory", getting build with one of the largest communication groups European success.

In October 2005 received, along with the Mexican businessman Roberto Hernández banking, the Sorolla Medal for his work of cultural diffusion, granted by the Hispanic Society of America at its headquarters in New York.

On July 21, 2007 he died in the city of Madrid, at the age of 77.


Yearbooks of "El País".

BARRERA, Carlos: No gag. Twenty years of press in a democracy. Madrid: Temas de today, 1995.

Annual reports of Fundesco.

SANTOS, Felix: Journalists, polanquistas, Trade Union of crime, pundits and other tribes. Madrid: Temas de today, 1995.

THRESHOLD, Francisco: The socialfelipismo. Barcelona: Ediciones B, 1991.

E García Fernández