Josep Lluis Núñez, who was FC Barcelona’s president for a record 22 years, has died, according to the club. He was 87 years old.
Núñez was a hotel magnate who took over the club in 1978 despite having no previous connection to the team, with his main goal being to modernize the club and increase its profits.
During his long tenure, the Camp Nou was expanded twice. He also saw the construction of La Masía, the Miniestadi, and the club museum.
He oversaw the signings of stars such as Diego Maradona, Michael Laudrup, Ronaldo, Hristo Stoichkov, Luís Figo, and Rivaldo. However, he drew criticism for being unable to retain some of those world class players by being unwilling to pay high wages.
Núñez also was president when Johan Cruyff was appointed as coach. Cruyff won Barcelona’s very first European Championship with a squad nicknamed “The Dream Team.”
He later had a falling out with Cruyff, and opposition to him grew as the club navigated an unsuccessful period after the Dutchman’s departure. The movement called “L’Elefant Blau” grew to oppose him, headed by Joan Laporta, among others. Núñez would resign in 2000 after pressure from fans. Laporta himself would take the presidency three years later.
Núñez was later sentenced to a six-year jail sentence in 2011 for tax fraud. But the case was held up in the courts for years, and it was only in 2014 when he went to jail, and only for a few months.
A controversial figure, Núñez inspired strong feelings in both supporters and detractors.