Victor Chávarri Salazar (1857–1900)

Victor Francisco Chávarri Salazar was an industrialist and businessman who contributed to the industrial development of Vizcaya (the Basque region).

He came from a family of iron-ore merchants at Portugalete, on the navigable estuary of the city of Bilbao. His father was Tiburcio Chávarri del Alisal and his mother was Natalia Salazar Mac Mahón. Victor studied civil engineering at Liége in Belgium and researched industry in Germany. His brother Benigno also studied engineering in Liége and they would later work closely together in business.

When he returned home to Portugalete Chávarri had inherited a share in the family iron mines at Triano. The non-phosphoric iron ores were mainly shipped to Britain for smelting. However, from the 1870s they were also smelted in the Basque country fuelled by coal brought back in returning ships. Chávarri proposed vertically integrating steel production in one company, from mine to steel works to shipping. In 1882, he created a joint-stock company, the Sociedad Anónima de Metalurgia y Construcciones Vizcaya (known as La Vizcaya) and used the capital this raised to build a steelworks on the marshes at Sestao, on the river front between Portugalete and Bilbao. By 1900 Bilbao was the main steelmaking centre in Spain. His works was later unified with two others to create the company Altos Hornos de Vizcaya.

He acquired further mining interests and promoted the construction of railways: the Bilbao to Santander railway and, in the year before his early death, the Basque-Asturias railway, which carried coal from Oviedo to the coast so that it could be shipped to his steelworks. He also invested in other fields, including explosives, glass, paper and property development. He took part in politics at regional and national levels, latterly as Senator for Vizcaya. He died unexpectedly of a stroke at the age of 45 in 1900. His brother Benigno was made Marquis of Chávarri in 1914.

A monument to him was put up in Portugalete in 1903 and the RIALIA museum shows material connected with his enterprises and those of his son, also called Victor Chávarri (1888-1970).