The Fall of the House of Espírito Santo

Portugal’s banking dynasty collapses under the weight of its debt
Ricardo Espírito Santo Silva Salgado Photograph by Mario Proenca/Bloomberg

The Espírito Santo family’s Portuguese banking dynasty was built over more than a century. It fell apart in a matter of months. In July three of Banco Espírito Santo’s parent companies sought protection from creditors. The family’s top executive, Ricardo Espírito Santo Silva Salgado , 70, stepped down as the chief executive officer on July 14. He was later detained for questioning and released on €3 million ($4 million) bail in a tax fraud and money-laundering probe—not connected to his role at the bank. He has denied wrongdoing. On Aug. 3 the lender founded by his great-grandfather was taken over in a €4.9 billion bailout.

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