The Santander Group is a Spanish banking group centered on Banco Santander, S.A. As its name suggests, the company originated in Santander, Cantabria, Spain.
The group has expanded since 2000 through a number of acquisitions, with operations across Europe, Latin America, North America and Asia. Many subsidiaries, such as Abbey National, have been rebranded under the Santander name.
The company is a component of the Euro Stoxx 50 stock market index. In May 2016, Santander was ranked as 37th in the Forbes Global 2000 list of the World's biggest public companies.
Banco Santander was founded in 1857. In 1999 it merged with Banco Central Hispano, which had in turn been formed through the 1991 merger of Banco Central and Banco Hispanoamericano. The combined bank, known as Banco Santander Central Hispano, or BSCH, was designed to be a "merger of equals", in which the top executives of the two pre-existing firms would share control of the merged entity. Soon after the merger former BCH executives accused Banco Santander chairman Emilio Botín of trying to push his own agenda and threatened to take legal action. This post-merger disagreement was resolved when BCH executives Jose Amusátegui and Angel Corcóstegui agreed to accept severance payments, retire and pass control to Botín, at an expense to shareholders of €164M.
The large termination payouts generated negative press and Botín was eventually brought to trial on criminal charges of "misappropriation of funds" and "irresponsible management." However, in April 2005 the court cleared him of all charges, the €164M retirement payments made to the two former executives were legal, "made as compensation for the services provided to the bank." Also that year, the anti-corruption division of the Spanish public prosecutor's office cleared Botín of all charges in a separate case, in which he was accused of insider trading.
In 2007 the bank officially changed the official name back to Banco Santander S.A.
The Santander Group operates across Europe, Latin America, North America and Asia, partly due to its acquisitions. As of 2013 it had more than 186,000 employees, 14,392 branches, 3.26 million shareholders and 102 million customers. Retail banking – the main aspect of Santander's operations – generates 74% of the group's profit.