Tomás de Zubiría e Ybarra (1857–1932)

Tomás de Zubiría e Ybarra (later Count Zubiría) was one of the leading industrial entrepreneurs in Spain in the early twentieth century and president of the country’s largest company, the steel conglomerate Altos Hornos de Vizcaya (AHV).

He belonged to the Ybarra family of ore dealers and iron and steel makers of the region around Bilbao. His father Cosme de Zubiría y Echeandía was married to Prudencia de Ybarra y Gutiérrez de Caviedes and became a partner in the family companies with her brothers Juan María de Ybarra and Gabriel María de Ybarra. He studied engineering at Liège in Belgium. The leadership of the steel company Altos Hornos y Fábrica de Hierro and Acero de Bilbao advanced by a generation when he was in his twenties with the deaths of his father and his two uncles. Zubiría played an important role in further diversification through subsidiary companies that made steel castings, tinplate, wire and steel tubes. These companies grew strong due to protectionist trade policies after 1891. He was also a director of the family’s Orconera iron ore company and developed interests in other sectors, including banking, lead mining, papermaking, coal trading and shipping. He founded the Vizcaya Bank in 1901 and the shipping company Compañía Marítima del Nervión in 1907.

In 1902 he became first president of the powerful new steel company Altos Hornos de Vizcaya – the largest company in Spain. This was created by merging the Ybarra firm Altos Hornos de Bilbao with two other steel companies, La Vizcaya and La Iberia. Together, they occupied a huge proportion of the industrial land along the estuary of Bilbao and employed around 6,000 people. Zubiría remained president of the company until his death 30 years later. He was awarded the title Count Zubiría in 1907.