• Spain edition
 
Spanish Face of the Week
The richest man you've never heard of
Amancio Ortega has wealth now estimated at €44 billion ($57 billion). Photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP Daniel Lobo

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
Football focus
Real Madrid beat Barça 3-1 in El Clásico
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi during the Spanish league "Clasico" football match Real Madrid vs Barcelona in Madrid on Saturday. Photo: Dani Pozo/AFP

Real Madrid beat Barça 3-1 in El Clásico

Luis Suarez's Barcelona debut ended in defeat as Real Madrid cut the gap on the La Liga leaders to just a point as they came from behind to win El Clasico 3-1 on Saturday. READ  

Suarez sought help to end biting impulse
Photo: AFP

Suarez sought help to end biting impulse

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez has admitted he has sought help to end his habit of biting opponents ahead of making his debut for the Catalans against Real Madrid on Saturday. READ  

Ashya King
Ashya King returns to Spain after Prague op
Photo: AFP

Ashya King returns to Spain after Prague op

Five-year-old British brain tumour patient Ashya King is feeling better after 30 sessions of proton therapy in Prague and is heading back to Spain, his doctor said Friday. READ  

Take The Local's Spanish history quiz

Take The Local's Spanish history quiz

Spain is full of famous places, faces and names. But how well do you know the history of this amazing country? Find in The Local's latest quiz! READ  

Bailed-out Bankia sees profits soar
José Ignacio Goirigolzarri took over as Bankia's chairman from Rodrigo Rato in 2012. Photo: José Jordan/AFP

Bailed-out Bankia sees profits soar

Scandal-hit Bankia on Friday announced improved earnings on the back of reduced bad debt ratios, news that comes in the midst of allegations top executives at the institution used 'secret' cards to make lavish personal purposes. READ  

Guggenheim guru gives critics finger in Spain
Frank Gehry designed Bilbao's iconic Guggenheim Museum, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of its opening on October 18th. Photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP

Guggenheim guru gives critics finger in Spain

Architect Frank Gehry, the designer of Bilbao's iconic Guggenheim Museum, stuck up a middle finger to his critics and used expletives to slam modern building design before receiving a prestigious prize from the king of Spain on Friday. READ  

Spain's public holidays in 2015: Official list
Spain will have a total of eight national holidays in 2015, but all regions have selected a few more of their own. Photo of skiers: Shutterstock

Spain's public holidays in 2015: Official list

Spain will have a total of eight fully national public holidays in 2015 with one of these falling on a Saturday. For the full list and more information on regional holidays read on. READ  

Struggling Spain to get EU 'Christmas present'
Spain, like Germany and France will receive a hefty rebate according to the leaked document. Money photo: Shutterstock

Struggling Spain to get EU 'Christmas present'

Crisis-hit Spain is to be handed a €168.9 million ($213.7 million) rebate from the European Commission on the back of poorer than expected growth since 1995, according to leaked documents which show some countries will have to stump up plenty of extra cash. READ  

Tourism talk
Fee slashes numbers at Barcelona’s Park Güell
Park Güell was the last place in Barcelona where modernist architect Gaudí's work was free to see. Photo: Gylo/Flickr

Fee slashes numbers at Barcelona’s Park Güell

The introduction of an €8 ($10) charge at Barcelona's Park Güell for people who don't live in Barcelona has had the desired effect with visitors numbers well down: all part of plans by the city to protect Gaudí masterpiece from overcrowding. READ  

Spanish science
Excited about new words? You're not alone

Excited about new words? You're not alone

Learning new vocabulary stimulates the same pleasure centre of the brain which responds to activities like having sex or eating chocolate, a new study by Barcelona researchers shows. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Health
Drug mule 'left to die' in airport over Ebola fears
National
Viral photo shows two worlds collide at Spain's African border
What's On
What's on in Spain: November 2014
National
Top Ten: the very best new Spanish words
National
Flash floods: woman dies in Canary Islands
Health
Cured: Spanish nurse with Ebola beats virus
International
Mango apologizes for 'Nazi blouse'
National
Where's the best place to live in Spain?
Travel
Top ten: great autumn getaways in Spain
National
The great Spanish cities quiz: take it now
National
Revealed: the cost of expat food in Spain
Politics
Catalan leader calls independence vote 'lite'
What's On
Games of Thrones star 'barred' from Seville film set
Education
Only one Spanish university makes world's top 200
What's On
What's on in Spain: October 2014
Politics
Spanish court suspends Catalan independence vote
National
Catalonia defies Madrid and calls independence vote
National
Spanish village swaps bulls for giant balls
Society
Spain scraps plans for tough new abortion law
National
'This is a great time for entrepreneurs in Spain'
National
Loud porn movie scares locals into calling cops
National
'We'll axe Catalan autonomy but won't send in tanks'
National
Spain's Thatcher square defaced by 'Brits'
National
Top 10: best Spanish movies of all time
National
Gravedigger suspended for corpse photo gaffe
Society
Named: the best city to live in Spain
Travel
Top ten amazing activities in Tenerife
National
Spain opens door to ban on burqas
Travel
Top ten: best bike rides in Spain
Travel
Spain to reopen 'world's most dangerous walk': The Camino del Rey
National
'Catalonia could be the shock Spain needs'
National
Office slang: Top ten Spanish expressions
Sport
Think you know Spanish football? Try these amazing facts
International
Australia set to welcome young Spanish workers
Opinion
Is tourism destroying Barcelona?
Society
Fashion fail: Zara pulls plug on 'Holocaust shirt' for kids
National
Man hurt as friend swaps ice bucket for plane
Spain 'would block independent Scotland from joining EU'
Politics
Spain 'would block independent Scotland from joining EU'
Property
'Dying' town flogs off land for €200 to woo new blood
Society
Spain's anti-rape guidelines: 1) Close your curtains
Health
'Spain's hospitals aren't ready for Ebola'
Travel
Twelve things tourists do that annoy Spaniards
National
Swiss sex tourists slapped with seatbelt fine
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

1,725
jobs available