The most inconspicuous billionaire?

Every business student has come across the Inditex (Zara) study case. The majority of us have studied the characteristics of this company and I could list myself some traits and examples of its  internationalisation over the previous decades.

However, how much do we know about its owner? Do we know who is behind the giant fashion retailer?

Last month, Amancio Ortega, founder of Inditex SA, became the richest man in the world for 45 minutes! Toppling the technology tycoon Bill Gates. Although, Gates usually wins the battle for the first position, the Spanish business-man proudly maintains his second position, with a fortune of $76.9 Billion! (Forbes) Not too bad for a man who started from the bottom, after witnessing his mother begging for money at the local grocery shop.

Moved by his promise of never seeing his family in that situation again, he started working in a fashion boutique at the age of 14. And at the age of 39 he opened the first Zara shop at La Coruña (Spain). And from there, to the infinity and beyond: “Inditex is present in 91 markets in five continents, with upwards of 7,000 stores” (Inditex), with flagship shops in the 5th Avenue (New York), Oxford Street (London), Avenue des Champs-Élysées (Paris), Palladium Mall (Bombay), and so on.

Still, why has nobody ever heard of him? Why doesn’t he have the status as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs? Easily put, he has tried to avoid it. He enjoys daily brunch with his old friends (with no more than two friends from the fashion industry); he doesn’t sit in an office, instead he shares the same space as a the rest of his workers (The Telegraph); Inditex funds the Paideia Foundation and holds an annual contest with the name of Marcos Ortega Mera (his only son born with a disability) for work that address the social integration of people with disabilities… (EL Mundo). Nevertheless, Ortega stills enjoying some multimillionaire luxuries. He owns a yacht, a 35 million plane, an equestrian centre, and has spent some hundreds of thousands on his daughter’s horse (El Confidencial), “an anecdote runs around the company that he managed to burst the engine of a Porsche” (el Mundo), given his passion for cars.

Despite his 80 years, he is still going and has managed to flood the University of Leeds campus with leather jackets in pink, baby blue or mustard colour. Ironically this incredibly ability on the prêt-à-porter industry, has not varied his dressing style: Oxford shirt with plain trousers, Castilian moccasins and only wearing a ties for certain occasions, such as his daughter’s wedding (El Confidencial).

This man started with nothing, regretted not obtaining a degree, and went on to become one of the wealthiest men in the world. But what he enjoys the most is raising cows and chickens in his farmhouse. If that’s not modesty then I don’t know what is!

By  Gema Sancho-miñana

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