Entrepreneurs

The founder of Zara briefly knocked out Bill Gates to become the richest person in the world

Amancio Ortega
Xurxo Lobato | Getty Images
Amancio Ortega

There was a new richest person in the world this week: Amancio Ortega.

On Tuesday, the Spanish fashion tycoon briefly knocked Bill Gates from the top spot. Gates rebounded, according to Forbes. Wednesday, Ortega's $85 billion fortune surpassed Gates' $84.9 billion once again. As of Thursday, Gates had regained his position, but it remains precarious: This was the fourth time Ortega has become No. 1.

In this country, at least, Ortega doesn't have the same name recognition as Gates or Jeff Bezos, who became the world's richest man for a short time on July 27. But the business he co-founded is more familiar: Inditex is the parent company to millennial-favorite fast-fashion brand Zara.

Here are seven things to know about the elusive billionaire:

    1. The 81-year old is publicity shy and eschews interviews

    Earlier on, so few photos existed of him, that even his investors "awkwardly confused him with other staff," according to The Economist.

    2. He's frugal

    Ortega reportedly frequents the same coffee shop every day and eats lunch in his company's cafeteria.

    3. He started from nothing

    Ortega, who was born in León, Spain, never graduated from high school. He worked for a tailor as a boy and set out on his own in his 20s, selling bathrobes and lingerie with his late first wife Rosalia Mera, according to CNBC.

    4. He was always innovative

    Ortega and Mera opened the first Zara in 1975. By 1976, they had their first computer to track sales. That was an integral part of Zara's quick turnaround business model, which Ortega instituted from the beginning. Early on he insisted the system be nimble enough to be able to restock any store within 48 hours and turn designs into clothing within 10 days.

    5. He has a personal management style

    Even as Zara grew into Inditex, which was created to house other lines as well as textile design, production and distribution companies, Ortega "never had his own office, desk or desktop computer, preferring to direct his firm while standing with colleagues in a design room of Zara Woman, the flagship line," according to The Economist.

    6. He's a titan

    Inditex went public in 2001. Ortega owns about 59 percent of the company, which has a $103 billion market cap. Today, the company includes brands like Bershka, Massimo Dutti, Pull&Bear and Stradivarius.

    7. He's tireless

    Ortega reportedly went 25 years without taking a vacation. And, despite stepping down as chairman of Inditex in 2011, Ortega continued to go to the office every day to sit with his young designers and buyers.

    Featuring reporting by Ali Montag

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