81 year old Amancio Ortega Gaona is a Spanish business tycoon. He is the founder and former chairman of Inditex fashion group, best known for its chain of Zara clothing and accessories retail shops. Ortega’s net worth is said to be $85.5 billion and he overtakes Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who stands with an estimated net worth of $84.6 billion
Amancio Ortega claimed the No. 2 spot on the list of the world’s richest people on Tuesday, Forbes reported. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos – who just last week beat Bill Gates to briefly claim the title of the richest man in the world – dropped to the No. 3 position. Bezos’ drop is due to Amazon stock fluctuations, as the ecommerce company’s stock has fallen nearly 5% since last Thursday.
Despite Ortega’s enormous wealth, many people have never heard of him. Ortega is an incredibly private man, is rarely seen in public, and has given just a handful of interviews throughout his incredibly successful career. Ortega keeps a very low profile and is known for his preference for a simple lifestyle. Until 1999, no photograph of Ortega had ever been published. He refuses to wear a tie and typically wears a simple uniform of a blue blazer, white shirt, and gray trousers, none of which are Zara products. He is said to take a very active part in the production and design process in the company.
His career began when he founded fast-fashion giant Zara with his then-wife Rosalia in 1975. Today, his retail company Inditex SA – which owns Zara, Massimo Dutti, and Pull&Bear – has 7,385 outposts around the world.
He left school and moved to A Coruña at the age of 14, due to the job of his father, a railway worker. Shortly after, he found a job as a shop hand for a local shirtmaker called Gala, which still sits on the same corner in downtown A Coruña, and learned to make clothes by hand. In 1972, he founded Confecciones Goa (his initials in reverse), selling quilted bathrobes which Ortega produced using thousands of local women organised into sewing cooperatives. Then in 1975, he opened his first Zara store with his wife Rosalía Mera, so called because his preferred name Zorba was already taken.
Today, Zara is part of the Inditex group (Industrias de Diseño Textil Sociedad Anónima), of which Ortega owns 59.29%, and aside from over 6,000 stores includes the brands Zara, Massimo Dutti, Oysho, Zara Home, Kiddy’s Class, Tempe, Stradivarius, Pull and Bear, Bershka and has more than 92,000 employees
In 2011, Ortega announced his imminent retirement from Inditex, parent company of the Zara chain, stating that he would ask Inditex vice-president and CEO Pablo Isla to take his place at the helm of the textile empire. In 2012 Ortega donated about 20 million euros to Caritas Internationalis, a Roman Catholic relief organisation.
In 2015 Ortega gave €17 million ($18 million) to the health system in the Spanish region of Galicia.
In 2017, the Charity Foundation of Ortega is to donate €320 million to Spain’s healthcare sector for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, specifically for the acquisition of 290 pieces of oncology apparatus; and one of the largest philanthropic donations ever made in the country.
Ashley Lutz and Mallory Schlossberg contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.