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Joan March: smuggler, businessman, politician and banker

Joan March: smuggler, businessman, politician and banker
Coinciding with the Fira de Santa Margalida, "la vila.org",  the electronic publication promoted by the association of the same name, made up of a group of youngsters and not so young from that municipality, has published a report in Catalan, Spanish, English and German dedicated to the banker Joan March Ordinas (Santa Margalida, 1880 - Madrid, 1962), known popularly as En Verga.

The report is based on the unpublished 10 accounting books of the firm March Hermanos, discovered last September by Miquel Monjo Estelrich in the banker's house in Santa Margalida, where his lived for 12 years, from 1905 when he married Elionor Servera Melis, until 1916, when he left that town, never to return, saying "I'm leaving Santa Margalida and I will not return until I am the richest man in the world."

The accounting books, mostly hand written by Joan March, are of great historical importance since they document the electoral bribes and the tobacco smuggling carried out by the controversial character at the beginning of the XX century.

Joan March started in the family business at a tender age, and became one of the most influential men in the XX century.  He organised the smuggling business on a grand scale and bought large properties of land in Alicante and La Mancha that he divided and sold to farmers, signing 40,000 public deeds.  The creation of a factory of chemical fertilizers in Porto Pi (Palma) in 1913 and the constitution of the company Trasmediterránea in 1916, consolidated En Verga's economic power, a fact that made him the enemy of the petty tyrants of the time who controlled the political life on Mallorca.

In 1918 Joan March decided to enter politics and in 1921 he started to finance El Dia, the newspaper in Spanish with frequent collaborations in Catalan by prestigious writers such as Josep Pla, Llorenç Villalonga, Gabriel Alomar and Bartomeu Roselló-Pòrcel. In 1926 he founded the Banca March, in 1932 he was imprisoned for political reasons in Alcalá de Henares, a prison he escaped from, and after winning different elections, in 1936 he financed the military who rose against the Republican government. March constituted in 1951 FECSA, a Catalan electrical company created in the shade of the controversial bankruptcy of the Barcelona Traction, and in 1955 he created the Fundación Juan March, based in Madrid. The extensive biography of Joan March ended in Madrid on March 10, 1962, as a result of a traffic accident that he had at the end of February of the same year.

In 1934 Manuel D. Benavides published a biography about Joan March called  "El último pirata del Mediterráneo", a book that the employees of the Banca March still read partly 'under the table' to know about the origins of their firm. Another book worth stressing is "Els inicis d'un imperi financer (1900-1924)", published in 2000 by the historian, Pere Ferrer. Both books go in depth into the beginnings of the Joan March fortune, the most obscure part of his biography, that will now have to be revised in part due to the discovery in Santa Margalida of the accounting books for that period.

Photo: Portrait of Joan March Ordinas carried out by Ignacio Zuloaga (Fundación Juan March)
Datum: 18/03/2002

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