Following the elections with the highest participation in the history of the club, Barcelona lawyer, politician and leader of the Elefant Blau pressure group Joan Laporta i Estruch became president of FC Barcelona.
With 27,138 votes (52,7%), Laporta was well ahead of his main rival Lluís Bassat, who polled 16,412, and of the other four candidates, who polled less than 10,000 votes between them.
He had first become known to the FC Barcelona membership in 1998 when, aged just 35, he was part of the Àngel Fernàndez candidacy that stood in the last elections against Josep Lluís Nuñez.
A year later, along with Albert Vicens, Jordi Moix, Alfons Godall and Albert Perrín, Laporta led the Elefant Blau pressure group that brought a motion of no confidence against Nuñez and in the elections of the year 2000, which were won by Joan Gaspart, he was part of the Lluís Bassat candidacy.
It was soon obvious that the Gaspart presidency was headed for failure and Laporta broke with Bassat in order to prepare his own candidacy alongside Sandro Rosell, who would become his right hand man and bring in other members, such as Jordi Monés and Josep Maria Bartomeu, into the team.
With a total of six candidates (Joan Laporta, Lluís Bassat, Jaume Llauradó, Josep Martínez-Rovira, Josep Maria Minguella and Jordi Majó), these would be the elections with the most number of candidates in the history of FC Barcelona and Lluís Bassat began the campaign as clear favourite.
However, under the slogan Primer, el Barça, the Laporta candidacy was a dynamic proposal made up of young Catalan professionals all in their late-thirties and early-forties prepared to dedicate "the best years of their lives" to FC Barcelona.
It offered a complete break with the past but Laporta also counted on support from important members of Catalan society, such as Miquel Roca Junyent, Salvador Alemany, Evarist Murtra o Judit Mascó, and presented ex-player Josep Guardiola as possible future technical director.
The campaign catchphrase was "virtuous circle and Laporta promised two media stars and three excellent players, who would bring sporting success back to the club.
The support of Johan Cruyff, of whom Laporta was not only a personal friend but also his lawyer, was also crucial.
Compared with the other candidates, who were all in their sixties, Laporta and his group, who all spoke not only Catalan and Spanish but also English, came across as young and modern.
Laporta alternated television appearances with Sandro Rosell, when it came to sports questions, and Ferran Soriano, if the interview dealt with financial issues.
An English journalist described Laporta as Barcelona's John.F.Kennedy and the idea became popular amongst the Catalan press.
A week before the elections, Laporta announced that he would be bringing David Beckham to Barcelona and the Bassat candidacy was increasingly in trouble.
The election results on June 15th 2003 were Joan Laporta: 27.138 (52,57%), Lluís Bassat: 16.412, Jordi Majó: 2.490, Josep Martínez-Rovira: 2.388, Josep Maria Minguella: 1.867 and Jaume Llauradó: 987 and Joan Laporta was elected president of FC Barcelona.
Following advice from Johan Cruyff and Sandro Rosell, Laporta took on ex-player Txiki Beguiristain as technical director.
Coach Radomir Antic was let go and after trying to bring in both Guus Hiddink and Ronald Koeman finally signed the relatively inexperienced Frank Rijkaard as first team coach.
David Beckham ended up signing for Real Madrid but despite limited time and the club's poor financial situation, the new management team got rid of 12 players and spent €44.4 million on seven new signings - Ronaldinho (€27 million), Quaresma (€6m), Rafael Márquez (€5m), Luís García (€4m), Mario (€2,4 m), Rustu (€0), and Gio Van Bronckhorst (€0) and Edgar Davids was brought on loan from Juventus halfway through the season.
In Laporta's first season as president, the team only won the Copa de Catalunya and came second in La Liga but particularly after 17 games without defeat in the second half of the season, it was clear that the team had potential and the fans began to fill Camp Nou again.
25,000 new members joined and membership stood at 130,000 by the end of the 2003-04 season.
On a social level, Laporta decided to erradicate violence and banned the Boixos Nois supporters group from Camp Nou, which resulted in death threats.
Laporta was criticised for increasing membership fees in contradiction to what he promised in the election campaign and also the fact that the new board didn't appear to fulfill its promise of cleaning out corruption within the club.
Before the start of the second season, Laporta and Rosell completed the renovation of the squad by letting 16 players ((Andersson, Cocu, Davids, Kluivert, Luís Enrique, Luís García, Mario, Óscar López, Overmars, Quaresma, Reiziger, Ros, Rustu, Santamaría, Saviola, Sergio García) go whilst investing €67.5 million in 9 new signings (Samuel Eto'o, Deco, Edmílson, Giuly, Belletti, Silvinho, Larsson, Maxi López and Demetrio Albertini).
This time the football really gelled and the team, led by an excellent
Ronaldinho, was top of La Liga for most of the season and duly became
champions on May 14th 2005.
The only negative points were being knocked of the Champions League, by Chelsea in the last 16 round, the Copa del Rey.
However, during this season the differences between Joan Laporta and Sandro Rosell became increasingly obvious and revelation that member of the board and former brothr-in-law of Laporta, Alejandro Echevarría, had previously been involved in extreme right-wing politics also caused a lot of criticism.
The naming of former handball coach, Valero Rivera, as head of the sports sections also deepened rifts and caused the resignation of a number of important people, such as Enric Masip, before Rivera finally resigned himself later in the season.
At the end of the season, four members of the board, Sandro Rosell, Jordi Monés, Josep Maria Bartomeu and Jordi Moix, who had all been key in bringing Laporta to the presidency , all resigned as did Xavier Faus, a little later.
Laporta's personal popularity hit a low point when, whilst going through security at Barcelona El Prat Airport and the metal detector refused to stop sounding, he ended up stripping in full iew of the public.
Fortunately for Laporta, sporting success continued in the 2005-06 season with the first team winning the second consectutive Liga and the second Champions League by beating Arsenal 2-1 in the Stade de France stadium in Paris with goals from Eto'o and Belletti.
However, at the end of the season, after a case was
brought by member Joan March Torné, judge Roberto García Ceniceros ruled
that although Laporta and his board had only been in control of the
club for just over three years, rather than the statutory four,
elections had to be called because the first months of the board had
been served in June, July and August 2003 and counted as having been in
control throughout the whole 2003-04 season.
This strange decision led to Laporta and his board standing down on July 30th 2006 and a management committee under Xavier Sala i Martin took over the running of the club until elections could be held.
Elections were planned for September 3rd but by August 21st, Joan Laporta was the only candidate and so automatically became FC Barcelona president for a four-year term of office, which would finish in the summer of 2010.
The 2006-07 began well by the team beating Espanyol to take the Spanish Supercopa but when the side lost the European Super Cup against Sevilla alarm bells began to ring.
In December despite starting as favourites FC Barcelona were beaten in the final of the World Clubs Cup by Inter de Porto Alegre.
Barça were knocked out of the Champions League in the last 16 round by Liverpool and beaten 4-0 by Getafe in the second leg of the Copa del Rey tie after having won the first leg 5-2.
With only the Liga left to play for, Barcelona were pipped at the post by Real Madrid on goal difference meaning that the side took no titles in the the 2006-07 season.
For the 2007-08 season, Rijkaard strengthened the side by signing Frenchmen Thierry Henry and Éric Abidal, Argentinian Gabriel Milito and Ivory Coast midfielder Yay Touré.
Despite being over 30, Henry cost €27 million and went on to form an attacking partnership with Ronaldinho, Eto'o and Messi, which would become known as The Fantastic Four.
However, on the field performances were disappointing and fans called for Laporta's resignation after the side was beaten by Real Madrid at Camp Nou on December 23rd 2007.
Voices were raised again after a 0-0 draw against Getafe on April 6th and after FC Barcelona's defeat in the second Clásico of the season against Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabéu a vote of no confidence was tabled.
There was a massive turn out for the vote and 60.6% voted in favour of the vote of no confidence but as the figure hadn't reached the statutory 66.6% Laporta refused to budge.
8 members of the 17-man board, including Ferran Soriano and Marc Ingla, resigned as a result of the vote and Laporta even turned to ex-president Joan Gaspart for support.
In preparation for the 2008-09 season, Frank Rijkaard's contract was
ended by mutual agreement after 5 years in charge of the first team and
the board took on playing legend Pep Guardiola as first team coach,
whose only experience at the time had been coaching the B team then
known as Barcelona Atlètic.
The club signed Gerard Piqué, Dani Alves, Martín Cáceres, Seydou Keita, Aliaksandr Hleb and Henrique and after the pre-season, Guardiola brought Sergio Busquets and Pedro up from the Barcelona Atlètic B team.
After an unconvincing start to the season with only one point in the first two games, the team gradually started to take shape and after a month or so went top of La Liga staying there throughout the whole season.
Guardiola's side beat Athletic Club 4-1 in Mestalla to take the Copa del Rey and after a memorable 2-6 victory over Real Madrid in Santiago Bernabéu went on to win La Liga.
However, the high point was beating Manchester United 2-0 in Rome with goals from Eto'o and Messi to take the third Champions League.
The following season FC Barcelona continued making history and the side first won the Spanish Supercopa by beating Athletic Club over two legs and then the European Super Cup by beaing Shaktar Donetsk in Monaco.
In December, Guardiola's side won the FIFA Club World Cup by beating Estudiantes de La Plata in the final making it the first side to win six trophies in a single calendar year in the history of football.
The team won La Liga again in 2010 and on June 30th Laporta was obliged to stand down having completed the current maximum of two consecutive terms of office.
In Laporta's seven seasons in charge of the club, FC
Barcelona won one FIFA Club World Cup, two Champions Leagues, one
European Super Cup, four Ligas, one Copa del Rey, three Spanish
Supercopas and four Copas de Catalunya.
During his presidency, the budget rose from €170 million to €445.5 million and the membership increased from 106,135 to 173.701 members.
Joan Laporta is also responsible for presiding over not just one but two legendary Barça sides under Rijkaard and Guardiola respectively.
4 Liga: 2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.
1 Copa del Rey: 2009.
3 Supercopa de España: 2005, 2006 and 2009.
2 Champions League: 2006 and 2009.
1 European Super Cup: 2009
1 FIFA Club World Cup: 2009
1 Euroliga: 2009-2010
2 Liga ACB: 2003-2004 and 2008-2009.
2 Copa del Rey: 2006-2007 and 2009-2010 .
2 Supercopa ACB: 2004-2005 and 2009-2010
1 Liga ASOBAL: 2005-2006.
3 Copa del Rey: 2006-2007, 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.
2 Supercopa de España: 2006-2007 and 2008-2009.
1 European Cup: 2004-2005.
7 OK Liga: 2003-2004, 2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2006-2007, 2007-2008, 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.
2 Copa del Rey: 2005 and 2007.
4 Supercopa de España: 2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2007-2008 and 2008-2009.
4 European Cup: 2004-2005, 2006-2007, 2007-2008 and 2009-2010.
4 Continental Cup: 2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.
1 Copa de la Cers: 2005-2006.
2 Intercontinental Cup: 2005-2006 and 2007-2008.
Trofeo Pedro Zaballa: 2003-2004 awarded by the Real Federación Española de Fútbol for trying to erradicate violent behaviour in football.
Since leaving the presidency, Laporta and his board have been involved in two court cases.
The first involved the private detective company Metodo Tres spying on members of the board around the time of the vote of no confidence seemed pretty reprehensible.
The second, in which Laporta and his team were accused of corruption and misuse of club funds, smacks much more of Sandro Rosell and other former Laporta colleagues trying to get revenge for whatever caused the split in the original term of office.
Joan Laporta has always been clear that he is in favour of independence for Catalonia from Spain and in many respects, he saw FC Barcelona as an element in Catalan society that could be instrumental in bringing independence about.
In the 1990s, he was involved in the Partit per la Independència (PI) with Pilar Rahola and Àngel Colom and was later associated with both CiU and ERC.
Immediately, after leaving the presidency of FC Barcelona he founded the political party Democràcia Catalana, which ended up merging with Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència (SI), who represented as head of the list for Barcelona in the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia in November 2010.
Joan Laporta occupied a seat in the Catalan Parliament first for SI and then as an independent from November 2010 to November 2012.