Spanish clothing billionaire Amancio Ortega, 79, has overtaken Bill Gates for the first time ever in the Forbes rich list.
According to Forbes’s real-time tracker, the elusive multi-billionaire founder of European clothing retailer Zara smashed past Bill Gates to become the wealthiest person on the planet, with a fortune of $79.8 billion (€71.83 billion or £51.84 billion). Bill Gates’ estimated net worth is $79.5bn as of this afternoon. He’s expected to take back his top position from Ortega.
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.
Amancio Ortega has a fascinating rags-to-riches story as he was born into a poor background and hustled his way to the top. Born in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, Ortega’s father earned 300 pesetas a month, a meager 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.
Forbes reports that Ortega’s wealth rose by 5.3%, another $4 billion, over the last 24 hours. That’s partly down to a surge in Inditex shares, the parent company that owns Zara.