Amancio Ortega is the founder of the textile group Inditex and, according to Forbes magazine, is the richest man in Spain and third richest in the world. His fortune is estimated to be around 63 thousand million dollars. His most famous chain of shops is Zara although he also owns Pull and Bear, Berksha, Oysho, Massimo Dutti and Stradivarius. His business model is to control all aspects of design, production, distribution and retail and to deliver new designs in record time.
He was born in the province of León where his father worked on the railways and, after twelve years in the Basque Country, the family moved to Galicia where his father was made station master. He started in the textile business in La Coruña, where he worked in two well-known tailor shops. His first enterprise was to make uniform white coats, a business he built up over a decade, creating international outlets.
He tells the story of his break into retail fashion by explaining how he would observe trends in clothing as he went about his daily routine. One day in his car he noticed the unusual combination of styles worn by a girl on the back of a motorbike. He phoned into his workshop and described the clothing in detail, whilst calculating how long it would take to mass produce the style and have it on the racks to sell. This method proved so successful that it became the hallmark of his new fashion enterprise. As his company controlled all aspects of the business, delays were reduced to the minimum.
He opened the first branch of Zara in 1975 in Santiago de Compostela. The following year branches opened all over Spain and the Inditex company was established in 1986. In 1988 he opened in Portugal and by the beginning of the 90s Zara shops could be found all over Europe, America, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. In 2001 Inditex was launched on the stock market and it is now the most important textile group in the world.
Amancio Ortega has diversified into other areas of business and has invested much of his wealth in property ownership around the world. In 2001 he created a foundation aimed at promoting research, education and science and in 2009 he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Great Cross by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. However, despite his great wealth, he has been criticized for locating his production outside of Spain to obtain higher profits. In 2012 his foundation donated 20 million euros to Cáritas: the highest donation the organization has ever received.