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"Here a new SGAE is born"

Antón Reixa, elected president of the royalty collection society, wants to bury the past

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Antón Reixa (l) with the musician Luis Cobo. EFE

Antón Reixa, former punk star, filmmaker, writer and TV producer, can from this week add the role of president of the General Society of Authors and Publishers (SGAE) to his eclectic résumé.

The man who promised to get explanations in the courts about the multi-million pension of disgraced former president Teddy Bautista - arrested last year on embezzlement charges - didn't hesitate to dedicate himself exclusively to his new role, and lowered his salary to a sixth of his predecessor's (around 60,000 euros) will now lead Spain's most important copyright management organization for the next four years.

That said, the fight for the SGAE crown has been a tough one... and it can't be ruled out that it may go on being so.

The 37 members of the supervisory board who attended the meeting on Tuesday arrived around 3.30pm. The tension was palpable and the different factions clearly identifiable.

Perhaps the most relaxed of those who went in to vote were the publishers, who as soon as they arrived announced, via Álvaro de Torres of Warner, that they were thinking of supporting the Reixa block. Their philosophy, they said, was not to change the majority feeling of the authors and that handed victory to Reixa, leader of the Aunir group of candidates. That solved part of the mystery. But in the house of the authors you never know.

Although secret, the vote revealed a pronounced tendency. The new president obtained 24 votes: the 13 that he put forward at the meeting, eight from the publishers and three more (presumably from the candidacy led by Jaume Sisa, which comprised six representatives).

Reixa has lowered his salary to a sixth of his predecessor's - to 60,000 euros

José Miguel Fernández Sastrón got 11 votes: nine that were his plus two more. The two abstentions came from Manuel de la Calva (who put himself forward with the Centrados candidacy) and a member of Sisa's group.

"We have defended the past in a self-critical manner. Now a new SGAE is born," declared the new president elect, clutching the piece of paper bearing his notes. It was a statement he had time to think about. Over a long week of deal-making and meetings, even when it wasn't so clear that he was going to get it, he must have imagined the moment thousands of times.

"We want a discreet, not a presidential SGAE, whose management collects to the maximum," he continued. "You [journalists] can come here every week, but not out of morbid curiosity. Morbid curiosity is finished with."

Reixa went on to list his priorities: to revise the 2012 budget; to carry out an efficiency plan; to resolve the problem of the organization's Arteria network of theaters; to reduce the president's powers; and to revise the statutes.

You can come here every week, but no longer out of morbid curiosity"

That last aspect could be key to making its president more relaxed. That's because an hour before entering the room it wasn't clear if Reixa was going to be able to be appointed to the role owing to one of the articles in the new regulations.

According to the section ast issue, the validity of which Fernández Sastrón has defended this week (legal reports were exchanged in the meeting), Reixa would not be able to sit on the management board.

The argument still needs to studied by lawyers, but it didn't convince the majority of the board, whose members in private have shown themselves to be tired of trouble and obstacles in recent days and decided to give their support to the head of the list of candidates with the most representatives.

"The board of directors is hoping for anything apart from a legal row," said the president elect.

Reixa now has to form a management team and allow himself to be advised by SGAE employees, who have remained refined and impartial in the background. He thanked them several times on Tuesday.

Javier Vidal, the head of SGAE's northwest delegation will be his cabinet leader. For the post of director general - the most important below that of the president of an organization that brings in 250 million euros a year - his candidacy says the intention is to organize a public tender to find an independent executive.

SGAE now takes on the difficult task of burying the past and devoting itself to its problems. Among other things it will have to negotiate compensation to authors for private copies made of legally purchased versions of their works; actively participate in the reform of the Intellectual Property law; and define its role in the application of the now passed "Sinde-Wert" Law, which aims to combat illegal internet downloading.

Most importantly, it will have to try to clean up its damaged public image through more transparent management and a better relationship with its clients (those who receive payment for the use of their copyrighted works).

But all this is to come - after the next time Reixa gets up on stage. It will be this Saturday, in Ourense in Galicia, to celebrate 30 years of his group Os Resentidos. An old punk has entered SGAE.

A new leader... at least for now

The plan was to go in at 3.30pm and settle the matter around 6pm. The appearance of the new president was announced for around that time. But as usually happens in SGAE matters, it all became complicated and a decision wasn't made until past 8pm.

According to some of those who attended the meeting, it was a fairly tense occasion. DOM, the group headed by José Miguel Fernández Sastrón, wanted the members of the management board, rather than the president of the supervisory board, to be chosen first. If he had managed it, the eventual winner, Antón Reixa, would have ended up outside the management board and wouldn't have been able to be president of the supervisory board. So the issue was voted on and Sastrón lost 26 to 11.

With that obstacle solved and Reixa named as president, the statute problem that according to the DOM leader prevents Reixa from becoming president was again put on the table. Reixa is committed to once again modifying the regulations with the Ministry of Culture with the aim of squaring everything up. The problem is that in the way the vote was held, Sastrón lost one member on the management board, which he had to give up to Reixa so he could head up both bodies. Legal reports backing up both positions were exchanged, but it seems neither was convinced by the other's theory. Reixa later played down the subject. He had won and the supervisory board, by a majority of over double the votes received by Sastrón and tired of the eternal fighting, had supported him. But the fight is not over. SGAE sources say they are not ruling out that the election will be contested.