Chapter 3The British Tax Exile

Stuck incongruously onto the edge of Atlético Madrid's ageing Vicente Calderón Stadium, by entrance number 48 next to the M30 ring road, is a property agency called Gilmar. It's in the wistfully named Paseo de los Melancolicos. Like the stadium, it has not been refurbished for decades. The agency is part of a network of offices clustered around Madrid and Marbella, and takes its name from the surnames of Jesús Gil and his wife, María Ángeles Marin. The business is another part of the legacy to their children; while Miguel Ángel inherited Atlético, his elder brother Jesús Jr. got the property business.

When a decade-long housing bubble burst in Spain in 2007, both parts of the family business were left reeling. Jesús Jr. could not shift any houses, and Miguel Ángel could not get rid of the outdated Vicente Calderón. He had hoped to sell it to a housing developer and collect as much as €400 million to build a new stadium. With house prices falling an average of 28% in four years, developers were going out of business as they sat on brand-new properties they could not sell. There were an estimated one million empty properties across Spain. Many Spaniards had bought second homes by the beach with credit, on the assumption that property values would carry on rising.

Nevertheless, Real Madrid came out of the crash and the ensuing financial crisis smelling of roses. Real's president Florentino Pérez had sold the club's city centre training ground for ...

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