Nicolás María de Urgoiti y Achúcarro (1869–1951)

Nicolás María de Urgoiti y Achúcarro was a leader of the Spanish paper manufacturing industry who became an important figure in publishing. After beginning as an engineer he merged several paper mills to create the dominant paper company in Spain and collaborated with others to strengthen the whole sector.

He was born to a Basque family in Madrid. While he was still a child they returned to Donostia-San Sebastián, where his father became a shipping agent. After graduating in civil engineering at Madrid in 1892 Urgoiti took a job as engineer to the Cadagua paper factory in the hills 15 km west of Bilbao. It was a time of technological change as processes were increasingly mechanised and the main raw material changed from rags to wood pulp. The Basque region was well placed to import wood and coal, had good supplies of water and could draw capital from the steelmaking and shipbuilding industries. However, Urgoiti’s factory was among those struggling to adapt and he toured Europe examining new practices. In 1901 he designed a merger to reduce competition and strengthen the industry. Eleven factories united in a new company, La Papelera Española, which produced 68% of Spanish paper. Urgoiti as director rationalised the business and opened a model factory at Errenteria in 1912. Nevertheless, the company was losing market share. He developed agreements with other manufacturers and set up a cartel to maintain prices called Central Papelera. He campaigned for shared distribution, a trade association and high import duties.

During the First World War, the industry was highly profitable. At this time Urgoiti developed his interests in publishing - to vertically integrate the paper business as well as for political and cultural motives. He created new companies that included El Sol, Fulmen and Prensa Grafica to invest in newspapers and magazines and Calpe to develop book publishing. He became a public figure, working on his newspaper 'El Sol' with the influential writer José Ortega y Gasset. In 1924 he founded the news agency Febus.

His reformist, pro-democratic newspapers suffered in the political strife of the 1920s and 1930s and he became ill with depression. In 1932 he moved to a sanatorium in Switzerland where he remained during the Civil War. 'El Sol' was closed by the Franco government in 1939. His last years were devoted to a medical institute he created during the influenza pandemic of 1918-20.