There’s a new richest man in the world. It’s Spanish clothes magnate Amancio Ortega, who has overtaken Microsoft founder Bill Gates for the first time ever.
According to Forbes’ real-time tracker, the elusive multi-billionaire founder of European clothes retailer Zara just smashed past Bill Gates to become the wealthiest person on the planet, with a fortune of $US79.8 billion (€71.83 billion or £51.84 billion).
The elusive Ortega isn’t as much of a household name as Gates, but he’s quietly ascended the wealth rankings in recent years, as his company continues to perform well and expand.
Unlike many of the richest people in the world, Ortega has a fascinating rags-to-riches story. Born in 1936 during the Spanish civil war, Ortega’s father earned 300 pesetas a month, a meagre salary.
Ortega’s biographer described his memories of a childhood during which his family could not always afford enough food. He left school in his early teens, working his way up from the absolute bottom rung as a messenger boy in a shop.
It wasn’t until he was 40 years old that Ortega got around to setting up Zara, the fast-fashion retailer that has gone from strength to strength — first growing in Spain, then neighbouring Portugal and France, then London. Now it’s all over the globe.
According to Forbes, Ortega’s wealth rose by 5.3%, another $US4 billion, over the last 24 hours. That’s partly down to a surge in Inditex shares, the parent company that owns Zara.
In the last 10 years, the market value of Inditex has risen by about 570%, the main driver of Ortega’s climb up the ranks.
In an odd turn of events, Ortega has Mario Draghi to thank for his new rank the head of the European Central Bank’s hints that the ECB would boost its quantitative easing programme on Thursday sent shares in the eurozone surging upwards.