On 16 July 2000, Spanish billionaire Florentino Pérez took office as president of Real Madrid, ushering in the club's first Galácticos period.
Pérez, a civil engineer by training and the CEO of a large Spanish construction company, first ran for election as the club's president in 1995, campaigning on a platform of club mismanagement by the incumbent, Ramón Mendoza. He lost by 700 votes.
In 2000, he ran again, this time against then-president Lorenzo Sans. He once more alleged mismanagement by the incumbent, as well as financial instability. Although the club had won the 1998 and 2000 European Cups under Sanz, they had not won the league since 1997 and had finished fifth in 2000. Pérez won the election, in part by promising to bring Barcelona star Luís Figo to the Bernabeu.
Figo was quickly joined in Madrid by several other high-profile and expensive players, including Zinedine Zidane (2001), Ronaldo (2002), David Beckham (2003), Michael Owen (2004), and Robinho (2005), leading to the nickname "Galácticos." The strategy worked, as Real Madrid won the league title in 2001 and 2003, with a Champions League trophy in between. But the team started to fracture around different factions, resulting in Pérez's 2006 resignation.
Pérez returned to the presidency in 2009 and immediately re-started his former policy, buying several expensive superstars that summer, including Kaká, Cristiano Ronaldo, Raúl Albiol, Karim Benzema, and Xabi Alonso. Real finished the season in second place behind rivals Barcelona, prompting Pérez to hire manager José Mourinho from Inter for the upcoming season.