MADRID Ė Isidoro Alvarez, chairman of Spanish retail giant El Corte Ingles and of the Ramon Areces Foundation, died Sunday in Madrid, where he was hospitalized last week due to respiratory problems, company representatives told Efe. He was 79.
Alvarez had been undergoing treatment since Wednesday at Hospital Universitario de Puerta de Hierro and appeared to be improving earlier in the weekend.
The executive, who spent his career with the company founded by his uncle, businessman Ramon Areces on his return to Spain from Cuba in the 1930s, turned El Corte Ingles into a global leader in the department store industry.
Alvarez joined the retailer at the age of 18 and was named CEO in 1959. He was named chairman of El Corte Ingles following Arecesís death on Aug. 2, 1989.
The executive diversified the department store chainís operations, expanding into hypermarkets, travel agencies, insurance and tech services.
Alvarez named his nephew, Dimas Gimeno, director general in 2013.
Gimeno has spent his career with the retailer, which employs 93,300 people and posted a profit of 174.35 million euros ($226 million) in its latest fiscal year, up 6.2 percent from the previous year.
El Corte Ingles operates in Spain and Portugal, and it is trying to enter the Italian market.