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The second richest man in the world: Amancio Ortega

Imagine going from a normal working-class lad, to the second richest man in the world. Well that’s what Spanish Amancio Ortega has done during his lifetime. He is the businessman who owns a majority share in Inditex group, which owns popular fashion retail brands such as Zara, Massimo Dutti, Oysho, Zara Home, Kiddy’s Class, Tempe, Stradivarius, Pull & Bear, Bershka.

Ortega is worth a colossal $78.6 billion. Not bad for a kid who started his career as a shirtmaker in a Spanish factory.

Last year, Ortega was, briefly, ranked the richest man in the world ahead of Bill Gates, but (no pity from us), that only lasted a mere four hours. Still a huge success though all considering.

In 1975 the Spaniard and his wife opened their first Zara store, which apparently got its name from Zorba, which they initially favoured, but that was already taken by another company so they settled on a similar sounding Zara. The name clearly had little impact on the couples’ drive to succeed in their chosen market. The Inditex company now employs a massive 92,000 employees spread over 6,000 stores worldwide — so it’s feeding plenty of mouths as well as the two that founded it.

During Ortega’s aggressive expansion in the 80s, and which continues to this day, he opened his first store in America at the end of the decade.

To get to grips with the ethos of his success, an actively private Ortega once said in a rare interview: “Just as we did in that first store which opened its doors… 25 years ago, we will expose ourselves daily to public scrutiny and attempt to seduce the customer with the latest fashion, the finest design, and the most attentive service.”

Worth remembering if opening retail stores is your thing, but comically, Ortega whenever photographed, is very rarely seen wearing any of his brands’ clothes. Maybe that’s a demographic issue. Most likely.

So strong is Ortega’s retail chain — while the rest of Spain during the recession of 2008 onwards was suffering from huge economical issues — he reportedly gained a whopping $45 billion in his company’s shares did well on the stock market. Despite stepping down as Inditex’s chairman five years ago, the Spaniard still pulls in excess of than $400 million in dividends annually.

In his spare time — which it’s amazing he has any of — Ortega puts his money into property around the world. In desirable places such as London, Chicago, New York and Miami, and has built up a portfolio which is worth more than $8 billion. That’s a lot of fancy bricks. One of the properties he owns is Spain’s tallest skyscraper which is in Madrid, the Torre Picasso. It stands at a neck-breaking 515 feet and it cost $536 million.

Fashion director Daniel Piette, who worked for high-end fashion brand Louis Vuitton, said of Ortega: “[He is] possibly the most innovative and devastating retailer in the world.” Well, if his bank balance is anything to go by — then we’ll have to agree.

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