Amancio Ortega has overtaken Bill Gates as the world's richest man. Though not a household name, Ortega's company Zara, which offers fashion and lifestyle accessories, has a presence in all the major cities of the world.
Spanish billionaire Amancio Ortega has surpassed the Microsoft founder as the richest man in the world, indicated Forbes' real-time tracker. Ortega's current net worth is about $80 billion. The sudden surge in share prices of his company, Industria de Diseno Textil, or Inditex, added another $4 billion to his wealth within a short span of 24 hours, offering him the title of the world's richest man.
Inditex reached an all-time high on Friday morning, which allowed the multi-billionaire founder of European clothes retailer Zara to sit atop a fortune of $79.8 billion (€71.83 billion or £51.84 billion). In comparison, Bill Gates' fortune at the same time was around $79.2 billion. Industry experts cautiously mention that it was the share price of Inditex that allowed Amancio Ortega to be the richest man in the world and that title could be whisked away from him if there's a correction. The two billionaires will likely trade the title of world's richest man in the coming days, as shares of Inditex, Microsoft, and their other holdings continue to go up and down, reported Forbes.Interestingly, share prices of Zara's parent company have risen more than 50 percent within the past 12 months. But what's astonishing is that Ortega's wealth has risen despite the strengthening of the dollar against the Euro. Ortega's wealth rose steadily despite Euro falling to $1.10 on Friday from $1.27.
Though Amancio Ortega certainly isn't a household name, especially when pitted against Bill Gates, his ascension in the list of world richest people has been steady, if not swift. His companies have continued to do remarkably well despite the economic slowdown and have expanded their presence to nearly all the major towns and cities across the globe. What makes Ortega a truly remarkable person to be at the top of the list is the fact that he didn't come from money.
Amancio Ortega had a very humble beginning. His father, a railway worker, made just 300 pesetas a month in the mid 1930s. The Spanish Civil War had ravaged the economy and Ortega's family suffered along with everyone else. Like many, Amancio Ortega frequently went to bed hungry and hence realized the value of money at a very early age. Working from the absolute bottom run as a messenger boy in a small shirt making shop at the age of 14, Ortega started small and never gave up, reported MSN. Incidentally, it wasn't until Ortega was in his 40s, that he was able to setup his own company, which he named Zara, in 1975.
Zara has been able to cater to the core need of fashion. Being able to quickly deliver trend-setting apparel for the money-conscious, Zara has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception. Experts estimate that production designers at Zara can ensure affordable designs move from drawing-boards to stores within two weeks. Such pace is matched by the eager patrons of Zara.
Amancio Ortega holds a 59.3 percent stake in Zara. Within a span of just 40 years, the company is now considered to be racing ahead of its competitors like Gap and Hennes & Mauritz. With a capitalization of €104 billion ($110 billion), the group is only the third Spanish firm ever to be valued above 100 billion euros, reported St. Louis Post.
[Update] As the markets closed, Bill Gates had reclaimed his title as world's richest man from Amancio Ortega. Owing to the rapidly fluctuating share prices, could Ortega be the world's richest man again?
[Photo By Xurxo Lobato / Getty Images]