Amancio Ortega, the man behind the Spanish brand Zara, has emerged as the third richest man in the world according to Forbes magazine’s annual rankings of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $57 billion (£37.5 billion), climbing up two spots since last year. The reclusive billionaire gained big this year with an increase of $19.5 billion (£12.8 billion) in his fortune in one year. Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim and Microsoft’s Bill Gates preceeded the fashion chain boss taking the first and second places respectively.
Mexico’s Carlos Slim, who has taken a hit from the slump in the share price of his America Movil telecoms group since the list was calculated as of February 14, remained the richest person with a fortune of $73bn (£48.2bn), and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates held on to the No. 2 spot with a net worth of $67bn (£44.3bn). The Zara boss overtook Warren Buffet, who slipped to fourth position with $53.5bn (£35.5bn) – even though his wealth increased by $9.5bn (£6.3bn) in the year. The aggressively managed Inditex has more than 6,000 stores in some 90 countries and includes such brands as Amancio Ortega’s flagship Zara, Zara Home, Massimo Dutti and others. It is the world’s biggest fashion retailer ahead of Gap and Hennes & Mauritz, making 840 million garments a year.
Amancio Ortega’s cash-rich business with a market capitalisation of 65 billion euros (£56bn) is flourishing amid the recession-ridden Spain. The shares rose 67% last year, defying the slump in consumer spending in Spain. Amancio Ortega, a stocky 76-year-old who favours blue blazers, open-necked white shirts and casual trousers, took home 666 million euros (£574m) in gross dividends thanks to his 59% stake in Inditex, which is worth 38 billion euros (£32.7bn) at current prices.
Through clever purchases and management of real estate, Amancio Ortega has challenged the debilitating Spanish property sector. His Zara stores are often positioned in premium locations near other more luxurious brands as part of his marketing strategy. The closely guarded privacy of Amancio Ortega pictures him as an enigma to the world. The company has revealed only one picture of his in 2001, when the company was listed. The most successful entrepreneur of Spain routinely turns down interviews.