This is the story of one of the most extraordinary European characters of the last 30 years: Jesús Gil y Gil.
Eccentric, funny, deeply corrupt and deviously clever, Gil was adored by the people, who connected with his pioneering brand of shameless populism. Atletico de Madrid, one of the great European football clubs, which was sunk in crisis, became his first platform. Gil swept to power as its president in the late 80s. As the Spanish club that represents the working classes, it became the perfect megaphone for the “Gilismo”.
Gil was a self-made construction millionaire who became a politician by accident. His story is constant game of appearance and reality. For two decades he dazzled the Spanish media.
But Gil did not hypnotise everyone. One person would become a fatal enemy. Carlos Castresana, the most brilliant public prosecutor of his generation, worked for years to see through Gil’s façade. They played a cat and mouse game for years. Gil’s outrageous performances in the media, and his more secret ways of corrupting officials, were pitted against Castresana’s boldness, and intelligence.
Gil’s greatest conquest, and the place that came to express his way-of-being in all its crudity and complexity was Marbella. Marbella in the 90s became the European capital of luxury and excess, a magnet for Italian mafia and Arab billionaires, home to a jet-set of film stars and aristocrats. Gil made it an international brand, promising money, freedom, pleasure.