Money & Power

10 Facts About the Owner of Zara, the World's 2nd Richest Man

For starters, he's one of eight billionaires who own half the globe's wealth.
IMAGE Getty
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Marking the commencement of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week, the international agency Oxfam released a report calculating the wealth of the world's most affluent. Oxfam's findings reveal an unsettling economic imbalance: "Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity."

Bill Gates (net worth: $75 billion) leads the pack (no surprise), but a close second is the unassuming, Spanish business mogul Amancio Ortega, known for launching the retail brand Zara. Valued at $72.2 billion, the media-shy magnate's influence has trickled down to millions' closets. His global realm—Inditex, a retail corporation fashioned upon brands that include Zara, Pull & Bear, and Massimo Dutti—accrued more than $20 billion in the last fiscal year.

Here's what we know about the the misterioso billionaire:

1. He has a humble background.

Born in Leon during the Spanish Civil War, Ortega had a true Cinderella story. The son of railway worker and a housemaid, the ambitious, young Ortega left home at 14 years old to earn more money for his family. He began working for a shirtmaker and learned to make clothes by hand—a harbinger, one might say.

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2. His retail titan Zara was almost named something else.

At nearly 40 years old, Ortega founded Zara in La Coruna, Spain. Ortega initially proposed the name of Zorba, his favorite character in the movie Zorba the Greek, but it did not receive permission for usage. After shuffling the letters, Ortega subsequently arrived at the name Zara (to be pronounced "Thara" in Spanish).

3. His former life partner was also his business partner.

In 1975, he opened his first store with his wife, Rosalie Mera, whom he had two children with and later divorced in 1986. At the time of Mera's death in 2013, she was the richest woman in Spain and the world's richest self-made woman. He later married Flora Perez, with whom he had one child.


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Rosalie Mera

4. He's a bit of a recluse.

Ortega has declined interviews for years, preferring to live a quiet life out of the limelight.

5. And he keeps a very low-profile.

He wears the same thing to work every day, stops in the same coffee shop, and eats lunch with his employees in the company cafeteria. Ortega also rarely vacations, meriting his workaholic label. Oh, and his car of choice? An Audi A8 luxury sedan—chosen for comfort, naturally.

6. He has some endearing hobbies.

In addition to horseback riding, Ortega spends his spare time raising chickens on his country estate.

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7. People are already speculating about who will take over for him.

His daughter Marta Ortega, 30, is the richest woman in Spain, and rumor has it she may be Ortega's successor. Marta recently married top Spanish equestrian Sergio Moya in 2012.


Amancio and Marta Ortega

8. His business empire has dealt with controversy.

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"Fast fashion" is Ortega's formidable approach to refreshing the stock in Zara stores twice a week. Beyond imposing a contentious strategy to competitors' displeasure, Zara has also been sued in the past by Louboutin for selling red-soled shoes, the company's trademark.

9. He's philanthropic.

Though his fashion and real-estate ventures (he owns the tallest skyscraper in Madrid, the Torre Picasso, and the Epic Residences & Hotel in Miami) keep him quite busy, Ortega also focuses on philanthropy. The Amancio Ortega Foundation, which primarily supports social and healthcare causes, has donated tens of millions of euros to cancer treatments.

10. Despite being a tycoon, he hasn't forgotten his modest upbringing.

In The Man from Zara: The Story of the Genius Behind the Inditex Group, author and Ortega's close friend Covadonga O'Shea writes that the founder became so emotional at a store opening in Manhattan that he locked himself in a bathroom and wept. "Can you imagine how I thought of my parents then?" he told O'Shea. "How proud they would have been of their son who had, so to speak, discovered America, starting from a little town lost in the sticks of northern Spain!"

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This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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