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Pepe and El Gordo

Christmas cards from José García Alegre were like fortune cookies. They contained a ticket for El Gordo (the fat one) - the annual Spanish Christmas lottery. With millions of euros at stake, it is the most popular draw of the year in Spain.


A generous man, Pepe liked to share any possible luck with his friends. 


He joined Reuters in the 1950s as a clerk in the Tangier office where he met a trainee named Michael Nelson who became Reuters general manager. 


Though lacking a university degree, a requirement for becoming a journalist in Spain, Pepe headed Comtelsa, a joint economic news venture of Reuters and the Spanish news agency EFE. He also became a top manager of EFE in the 1970s when it rapidly expanded its international operations.


Pepe was a wise and valuable consigliere when I was Reuters bureau chief in Madrid from 1974 to 1978, the crucial period of Spain’s transition from the Franco dictatorship to a modern democracy. ■