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Court declares employer group chief insolvent

Former Marsans chief paid himself as his empire crumbled

Gerardo Díaz Ferrán, the outgoing head of Spain's largest employers' group, CEOE, who has seen his own business empire collapse over the last year, was yesterday declared "in a state of insolvency" by a Madrid mercantile court. Prior to yesterday's decision, a court had ordered a preventative freeze on Díaz Ferrán's assets to cover the 417.3-million-euro debts of one of his companies.

Díaz Ferrán, the former owner of the now-bankrupt Marsans travel group, of which the ruined airline Air Comet was also part, is being pursued by the Olympia travel agency and the NH hotel chain for unpaid debts.

Viajes Marsans crashed last December, dragged to its doom in large part by the grounding of Air Comet, a subsidiary of the travel group.

Air Comet had its operating license rescinded by the Public Works Ministry, whose minister, José Blanco, said the carrier "did not even have enough money for fuel."

The Treasury was forced to shell out 6.3 million euros to ferry 7,000 passengers stranded at Madrid's Barajas International Airport to their destinations. In order to try and save Air Comet, Díaz Ferrán shoveled large sums of cash into it from the Marsans group.

Olympia is claiming 1.1 million euros from Díaz Ferrán. According to the court report, the only asset the ruined entrepreneur holds is an apartment in Madrid. However, this property is already under a preventive embargo in favor of the travel agency Pullmantur, which is chasing 11.5 million euros in unpaid debts from Díaz Ferrán.

The judge is also expected to rule on Díaz Ferrán's former business partner Gonzalo Pascual, who faces a similar fate over the next few days. Both Díaz Ferrán and Pascual registered themselves employees of Marsans in April and awarded themselves a 20,555-euro redundancy payout two months later.