Javier Mateache Sacristán, the co-founder and U.S. CEO of Elawan Energy (formerly Gestamp Wind), passed away on June 25, following the recurrence of a previously treated cancer, at the age of 53.
Originally an oil and gas executive in Madrid, he played a role in the commercialization of wind energy in Spain before moving to Houston, the base from which he executed some 1.6 GW of renewable energy projects in nine countries during a decade at Gestamp.
During that time, he became a well-known figure in the Houston power community, among which he is remembered for his energy and sense of humor.
“Javier was a great guy and had this huge personality where he would command attention when he spoke,” says a project finance banker who worked with him. “He had incredible knowledge and experience in the wind industry both in Spain and the U.S. and shared some entertaining stories that romanticized wind turbine construction and operations.”
Among the many notable deals he handled was the financing of the 23.4 MW Punta Lima wind farm in Puerto Rico in 2013, on which CIT Bank
was the sole lead arranger (PFR, 9/30/13
“His greatest quality was that he combined ‘locomotive-like’ leadership with an excellent judgement of risk,” says Gustavo Quintas, senior controller at Gestamp Wind.
He passed away in the presence of his family, including his brother, who had flown to the U.S. from Spain. He is survived by his wife Maria Jose and his son, Javier Jr.
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Mateache was born to a wealthy family in Madrid in 1966. His father was a banker but he began his career in the oil and gas industry in 1987, eventually becoming commercial director at Spanish oil company CEPSA. There he met his lifelong friend and future business partner, Dionisio Fernandez Auray.
Mateache was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1996, at around the age of 30. His only child was born shortly thereafter and he took a break from work to receive treatment, which lasted for years.
But he returned, reuniting with Auray and joining Hidroeléctrica del Cantábrico in the early 2000s to build out its wind development business, shortly before the company was acquired by EDP and renamed HC Energia.
“Javier knew how to enjoy working—a lover of life, of experiences, a born fighter," says Rocío Sicre, country manager for Spain at EDP Renováveis. "Tireless, fun, professional, unique.”
“I remember having a hilarious dinner with him in Spain where he regaled us with stories from his family’s wax museum,” recalls Lazard's Michael Skelly. “He would prank people by posing as one of the wax figures to frighten the guests!”
Skelly met Mateache when EDPR acquired Horizon Energy, where Skelly was chief development officer, in 2007 (PFR, 11/9/07).
It was around this time that Mateache felt he knew enough to go it alone in the wind business, given the right backing.
That year he approached Francisco José and Juan María Riberas, the billionaire brothers of the family behind the multinational engineering conglomerate Gestamp, to raise capital.
The Riberas brothers had already come into contact with the solar business in 2004, when they began providing the steel for panel support structures. They were initially willing to front only half the cash Mateache requested before quickly changing their minds and becoming his sole backers.
He duly left EDP to establish Gestamp Wind, bringing with him his close collaborator Auray, in 2007. He arrived in Houston in 2008 to establish a foothold for the new business in North America.
“He was successful in the early days of the wind industry in Spain and showed up in Houston, figured things out and got another bunch of stuff done,” says Skelly. “He would go roaring around town on his motorcycle—he was irrepressibly effervescent.”
Mateache was something of an aficionado of two-wheeled machines, owning both a Harley Davidson and a BMW, but his interests also extended to poetry—he was known to recite the works of Pedro Calderón de la Barca by heart—and music, particularly the Rolling Stones.
The recurrence of his cancer came after a short sabbatical and motorcycle holiday with his wife in New Zealand.