Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA said in a surprise move Tuesday that Chief Executive Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri will stand down after eight years in the post.

Spain's second-biggest bank by assets said Angel Cano Fernandez will take over day-to-day operations. BBVA's executive Chairman Francisco Gonzalez, who turns 65 next month, is to continue at the helm.

Goirigolzarri, 55, had long been seen as Gonzalez's natural successor. However, Goirigolzarri's ambition was thwarted when BBVA's board in December 2007 modified its bylaws to let the chairman stay on until he is 70. The relationship between the two bankers then soured, said people familiar with the matter.

The 48-year-old Cano has worked at BBVA for 18 years, holding posts that included financial director and comptroller.

BBVA has more than $60 billion in U.S. assets after several small purchases in Texas and its 2007 acquisition of Compass Bancshares Inc. in Birmingham, Ala. Last month it expanded further by buying 162 Guaranty Bank branches.

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