Thursday, June 04, 2015

Amancio Ortega

A practically unheard-of billionaire, Amancio Ortega, just blew past household name Warren Buffett to be the second-richest man in the world, according to Bloomberg. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who is worth $85.5 billion, remains first.

Oretega, who has amassed a net worth of $71.5 billion, is the founding chairman of the Inditex fashion group, the world’s largest apparel retailer. Inditex is best known for its chain of Zara clothing and accessories shops, which had sales of $19.7 billion in fiscal 2014.

Worth noting is that Warren Buffett, whose net worth of $70.2 billion puts him at third place, would be in second-place if not for his philanthropic giving.

A native of Spain, Ortega refuses almost all interview requests and until 1999, no photograph of him had ever been published. However, Zara is not so low-profile. The world’s biggest fashion retailer operates over 6,600 stores in more than 88 countries.

Inditex has shown strong growth year over year. In March, it reported net profit up 5 percent from the previous fiscal year. In addition, the company said it planned to open up 480 more stores this year.

Key to Ortega’s success has been keeping Zara’s manufacturing close to its home base in the ancient port city of La Coruña, rather than outsourcing production to China to cut costs. This allows Zara to act quickly on new trends and put new products into stories right away. Zara shops receive new shipments of clothing twice a week, virtually unheard of among retail stores.

If Inditex brands continue to grow and Zara’s popularity extends to millennials and beyond, the mysterious billionaire’s wealth could eventually push him to number one on the list.

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