Telefonica’s former chair and CEO Cesar Alierta (pictured) died at the age of 78, the company announced, highlighting the decorated entrepreneur’s strategic vision and work leading its charitable foundation.

The executive spent 16 years as chair and CEO at Telefonica before handing over to current holder of the roles Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete in 2016. Alierta was also head of Fundacion Telefonica and Fundacion ProFuturo, which focus on social inclusion through digitalisation and education.

As part of the company’s obituary describing Alierta’s work, it noted the late executive believed in “improving the education of vulnerable children around the world to give them a choice for the future”.

Alierta received global recognition for his achievements, being awarded the Americas Society Gold Medal for his significant contribution to the growth and development of Latin America, and a Global Spanish Entrepreneur accolade from the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce.

Outside of Telefonica, he held board positions with a number of organisations including International Consolidated Airlines Group, China Unicom and the now defunct Business Council for Competitiveness.

Highlighting the impact of his predecessor, Alvarez-Pallete said: “It is a sad day for the Telefonica family. We are all custodians of the immense legacy left to us by Cesar Alierta, a passionate, intelligent and courageous man with a heart that was wide open.”

“His vision of the future and his intuition always led him to try to change the world for the better. His deep love for his native Zaragoza allowed him to take his homeland to all corners of the world. Thank you very much, dear friend”.