Lorenzo H ZambranoLorenzo Zambrano, who turned Cemex from a regional cement producer to a global cement giant, died yesterday in Madrid of natural causes, according to the company. Cemex announced that its board of directors will meet “in the coming days to make the necessary decisions” while the operation and administration of the group continues “to proceed normally.” It is unclear who will succeed Zambrano.

As chief executive for nearly three decades and chairman for two, Zambrano built Cemex into one of Latin America’s most successful companies through a series of acquisitions and international expansions that extended its reach to 50 countries on five continents. He was considered one of Mexico’s most prominent business leaders.

Tributes and condolences immediately began pouring in after news broke of Zambrano’s passing. Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted, “My condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Lorenzo Zambrano, a man of great commitment and love for Mexico.” Finance Minister Luis Videgaray said in a message posted on his Twitter account that “Mexico has lost an extraordinary businessman and a great Mexican.”

Zambrano’s death came as a surprise. When asked during a television interview in late April about a succession plan, a healthy Zambrano stated, “Not at all. There is a lot to be done and I add value to the company.” He signed Cemex’s annual report, filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission at the end of April, and was active on Twitter until earlier this month.

Senior management at Cemex, which was founded by Zambrano’s grandfather, includes Chief Financial Officer Fernando Gonzalez and six presidents for regions such as the U.S., Mexico and Northern Europe, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Francisco Garza is an adviser to the CEO on institutional relations.

While Cemex probably has a succession plan, “I think there will be a little volatility tomorrow on this news,” said Fernando Bolanos, an analyst at Monex brokerage, citing uncertainty over who will take the helm. “We don't think there should be fundamental changes at the company. We think they will maintain the same strategy.”

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