Amancio Ortega is now the world’s richest man. The Spanish retail genius who started Zara, passed Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Wednesday as shares of Ortega’s business Inditex, parent company to Zara, Massimo Dutti and Pull&Bear, ticked up 2.5% Wednesday, boosting his personal fortune by $1.7 billion. That lifted Ortega’s net worth from $77.8 billion to $79.5 billion. Gates is worth an estimated $78.5 billion.
He is the son of a railway worker from La Coruña, Spain, and is known to very reclusive. Starting his career as a store clerk, he for years made lingerie, pajamas and nightgowns in his living room with his wife.
In 1975, the couple (who eventually divorced) decided to open a store named Zara. Eight years later, Ortega had expanded to nine locations around Spain. In 1984, he opened a 10,000 square foot logistics hub.
Ortega does not believe in advertising as he has devoted most of his resources into turning his company into the most efficient retailing operation in the world. When companies like Gap and H&M were taking five months to design, make, distribute and sell new products in the early 2000s, Zara completed the atsk in three weeks, keeping up with the demand of shoppers.
Ortega took the business public in 2001 and debuted on the Forbes billionaires list the same year, with a net worth of $6.6 billion. By then, Gates was already the richest man in the world, with a fortune of $58.7 billion.