New Real president has close links with Perez

February 28, 2006

MADRID, Feb 28 (Reuters) - A board member who has shied away from publicity, Fernando Martin has close links with his predecessor as Real Madrid president.

Martin has known Florentino Perez for more than 20 years and both men had brief political careers in the now defunct UCD (Union of the Democratic Centre), a loose coalition of Liberals, Social Democrats and Christian Democrats founded during the transition to democracy after General Franco's death.

Perez went on to make his fortune in the construction industry and Martin made his in property, setting up Martinsa in 1991.

Martin was part of Perez's team in his first, unsuccessful bid to become Real Madrid president in 1995, and remained with him for Perez's success in the 2000 election.

The same age as Perez, Martin was born in Valladolid in May 1947 and studied chemistry at university. He is renowned as a tireless worker, a devoted football and basketball fan and a bull-fighting aficionado.

Spanish media report that Martinsa made a net profit of more than 145 million euros ($171.8 million) last year, while his other interests include a significant share in the stadium of Real's city rivals Atletico Madrid.

There is little doubt that Martin has the business and financial expertise to run the club.

The true test of his skills will be whether or not he can resurrect the club's fortunes on the football pitch and how he deals with 'galacticos' like Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham and the unhappy Ronaldo.

Perez believes Martin is the best man for the job.

'I wish him all the luck in the world as he takes up this challenge,' Perez said after his shock resignation on Monday.

'He understands what the problems are and he's going to do a good job. I'm proud because he will continue the task we began in 2000.

'It isn't an easy task but we all know that he is a capable man.'

According to the club statutes Martin, who was the unanimous choice of the club directors, will preside over Real until the next presidential election in 2008.