• Spain's news in English
 

The richest man you've never heard of

Published: 14 Mar 2013 18:40 GMT+01:00
Updated: 15 Mar 2013 11:00 GMT+01:00

Custom-made
 
Amancio Ortega is the founder of Spanish clothing conglomerate Inditex, which owns the hugely popular clothing stores Zara, Massimo Dutti and Pull & Bear, just to name a few.
 
Although the rag trade specialist stepped down from the Inditex top job last year, he still holds a 69 percent stake in the firm.  
 
If you've been down any major European high street in the last few years, there's a good chance you've entered one of his Inditex stores. 
 
In fact, Inditex is the largest fashion retailer globally, with 6,000 stores in 86 countries. 
 
Last week the textile giant announced net earnings of €2.3 billion last year ($3.5 million), up 22 percent in just 12 months.
 
But even that wasn't enough to satisfy shareholders. Such are the expectations people have of Inditex that stocks actually fell 5 percent on the back of the news. 
 
All told, the clothing giant employs 120,314 people worldwide, of which 10,802 have been recruited in the last 12 months.
 
Crisis-proof?
 
It may be hard for some people to imagine a Spanish company doing so well at the present time.
 
But Juan Ramis, a professor at Spanish business school ESADE, says: "Internationalized companies are suffering much less than others in the crisis, and Inditex is about the most internationalized (firm) there is."
 
Indeed, only 21 percent of the clothing company's last year's earnings came from Spain. 
 
Economic "turbulence strangely favours a retailer like Zara,” Nancy Koehn, a retail historian at Harvard Business School, told Bloomberg.
 
“Among fashionistas, there’s a new badge of status in finding the cool at a lower price.” 
 
The company headquarters, however, remain in Amancio Ortega's native province of Galicia, and every single garment passes through Spain and more than half of production is done locally.
 
The secret of his success 
 
Amazingly, Inditex does not even advertise its brands, except through the shopfronts themselves, which are shining palaces of modern consumerism.  
 
The clothing group is also canny with its real estate decisions, often choosing locations near luxury brands, says The Economic Times.
 
Ortega's success has also been put down to the company's rapid turnover, with new designs constantly being dispatched to stores.
 
Having most of the production close by allows Zara and other brands to be quick: 15 days from design to retail rack — compared with the old industry standard of six months.
 
"Ortega works directly with people in the company's operations. He is in the production plants," Ramis says.
 
"Being so close to the ground he takes better decisions than others who stay in their office. As well as being a brilliant and intelligent person, he is better at taking decisions than others."
 
Forbes rich list 
 
Ortega has wealth now estimated at €44 billion ($57 billion), rocketing from €28.7 billion a year ago, according to Forbes Magazine.
 
Only the Mexican magnate Carlos Slim and US tech titan Bill Gates rank above him on global the rich list.
 
Keeping a low profile
 
Despite all this amazing business success, Ortega remains a mystery — even for most Spaniards. 
 
Ortega never gives interviews and despite his extreme wealth and omnipresent clothing stores, Spanish media have been hard pressed to dig up any stories about him.
 
What we do know is this: Ortega quit school at 13 and worked in a shirt shop in Galicia's La Coruña.
 
Four years later, he set up his own wholesale business. 
 
He opened his first Zara boutique in 1975, in La Coruña. More branches followed, and he expanded into Portugal in 1988, the United States in 1989 and France in 1990. 
 
Married twice and the father of three children, Ortega is said to eat often in the staff canteen with he designers, fabric experts and buyers for the Zara Woman line, says Bloomberg.
 
"In the street, I only want to be recognized by my family, my friends and people I work with," he told Covadonga O'Shea, the journalist who wrote his biography.
 
The Local's Spanish Face of the Week is a person in the news who - for good or ill - has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as Spanish Face of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.

Alex Dunham/The Local/AFP (alex.dunham@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
The Local list
6 reasons to love Woody Allen's favourite city
Woody Allen statue in Oviedo. Tony Madrid Photography / Flickr

6 reasons to love Woody Allen's favourite city

Woody Allen claims it as his favourite city in Spain, but the northern city of Oviedo remains one of the lesser explored of all the country's regional capitals. Here are six reasons why that should change. READ  

Woody Allen drops in on his favourite Spanish city
The US film director was in Oviedo, Asturias this week. Photo: Rafa Rivas/AFP

Woody Allen drops in on his favourite Spanish city

While the US film director's first love is famously New York City, he chose to holiday this week in his second: the Asturian city of Oviedo. READ  

Catalonia independence movement loses support
Photo: AFP

Catalonia independence movement loses support

Support for an independent Catalonia is waning, according to a new public opinion poll, and only 42 percent would vote "yes" in a referendum on whether to split from Spain. READ  

Costa Brava beaches closed over shark fears
A stock photo of a blue shark, the species spotted on the Costa Brava on Thursday. Photo: Mark Conlin/Wikimedia

Costa Brava beaches closed over shark fears

Police on the Costa Brava were forced to close four beaches on Thursday after sharks were spotted in shallow waters. READ  

Tennis
Nadal doubts future after Wimbledon thrashing
Rafael Nadal crashed out of Wimbledon in a shock second-round defeat. Photo: Patrick Novarik/AFP

Nadal doubts future after Wimbledon thrashing

Spanish tennis ace Rafael Nadal has hinted at retirement after his shock second-round defeat by German 102 seed, Dustin Brown. READ  

Games of Thrones
Game of Thrones add a surprise Spain location
Extras from Game of Thrones during filming last year in Andalusia. Photo: AFP

Game of Thrones add a surprise Spain location

The hit television series have added Navarra as a third location in Spain to their September filming schedule and are looking for tall, slender men and women with a dark complexion to be extras. READ  

Maggie's out as mayor renames Madrid square
Photo: UK in Spain/Flickr

Maggie's out as mayor renames Madrid square

Manuela Carmena, the new left-wing mayor of Madrid, has proposed changing the name of a Madrid square named after the Iron Lady. READ  

Spanish reporter flees Egypt to avoid arrest
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood top figure, Mohamed el-Beltagy during his trial in May. Photo: Khaled Desouki / AFP

Spanish reporter flees Egypt to avoid arrest

A Spanish journalist said he was forced to flee the country to avoid arrest after writing a book about the Muslim Brotherhood, a claim authorities denied. READ  

Madrid's Plaza Mayor to get a cultural makeover
Madrid's new council are planning a makeover for the city's Plaza Mayor. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP

Madrid's Plaza Mayor to get a cultural makeover

Madrid's famous main square is to get a makeover, with the city's new left-wing council planning to replace its markets with a host of cultural offerings. READ  

In pics
Spanish royals complete first state visit to Mexico
Spain's King Felipe and Queen Letizia are on their first state visit to the Americas this week. Photo: Hector Guerrero/AFP

Spanish royals complete first state visit to Mexico

Spain's King Felipe and Queen Letizia are in Mexico, on their first state visit to the Americas since he came to the throne just over a year ago. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
What's on in Spain: July 2015
National
The ten most repressive points of Spain's gag law
National
Spain celebrates ten years of gay marriage
Travel
Top ten tricks to survive the Spanish summer
National
Woof! The top ten dog-friendly beaches in Spain
National
Driver fined €80 for biting fingernails at the wheel
National
Castle for sale, one-time pad of mad queen, €15 million
National
And the most beautiful plaza in Spain is...?
Politics
Spanish mayor's rogue little toes go viral
Top that! Italy snatches pizza title from Spain
National
Diphtheria is 'Russian roulette with real bullets'
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: 9 questions every expat should ask
Politics
French PM takes flak for taking his kids on state jet to footy final
National
Spain's little 'prince' shamed for racist rant
National
Spain world's second best for work-life balance
Travel
Barcelona most bike-friendly city on the Med
National
British expat fury over EU referendum snub
Politics
Madrid goes mad for radical mayor Manuela
10 super Spanish drinks everyone should try
National
Are these Spain's ten most powerful women?
National
Horse deaths reveal dark side of Rocio pilgrimage
Travel
Six of the best gourmet burger joints in Madrid
Travel
The ten best places for foodies in Barcelona
Education
7 reasons for Spain's newfound love of English
Features
7 reasons why Spain's the best place on earth
National
The perks and quirks of having a baby in Spain
National
Iceland revokes order to 'kill Basques on sight'
National
Five reasons why it’s good to be gay in Spain
National
Job creation? The truth behind Spain's figures
National
Spain among ten best countries to be a mum
National
The ten greatest things about Spain (in the UK)
National
British expats fall victim to NHS clampdown
Features
Top ten: Madrid's best rooftop bars
Travel
Benidorm: Cultural wonder of the world?
National
King Juan Carlos led 'double-life' with lover
Features
Ten best UNESCO world heritage sites in Spain
Features
Happy book day! Top ten Spanish literary gifts
Features
All the fun of the fair: Seville's Feria de Abril
National
Off with her hair! Queen Letizia debuts new do
National
Barcelona bans tourists from famous market
National
Rockers pen 'We don't love Ryanair' ballad
Travel
Location tours start for 'Game of Thrones' fans
National
Top ten things to do in Castellón
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,337
jobs available