Amancio Ortega is a private man, who prefers to live simply. He never wears a tie and wasn’t photographed at all until 1999. You may not know him, but you will certainly know some of his shops, which are now present in practically every country in the world. His is a kind of rags to riches story. His father was a railway worker and today Ortega, a Spaniard, is the second richest man in the world.

WHO IS HE?

Ortega is the founder of the Inditex empire, a fashion group which has 7000 shops in 88 markets globally. His story is almost like a fairytale which began in A Coruña, where at the tender age of 14, he found work at a local shirt maker’s shop. Here he was taught how to make handmade clothes and eventually he opened his own business making quilted housecoats using the skills of thousands of local women who were organised into cooperatives.

His story is almost like a fairytale which began in A Coruña, where at the tender age of 14, he found work at a local shirt maker’s shop.

It was in 1975 that Ortega opened his very first Zara shop which sold up to date fashion at low prices. He noticed the growing influence of computers in society at the time and employed the services of a local professor to increase his company’s computing power. The company quickly expanded using a system which reduced the time from design and manufacture to arrival at the stores. Today the Inditex group has several international brands, Zara, Pull and Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho, Zara Home and Uterqüe.

WHY IS HE IN THE NEWS AT THE MOMENT?

Ortega recently celebrated his 80th birthday. His daughter arranged a surprise party for him at the Inditex headquarters in Arteixo (Galicia). He is a discreet man, preferring to stay quietly in the background and has only ever given 3 interviews throughout his business life. He retired as CEO of the company in 2012, but is still involved and came to the headquarters completely unaware of what was about to happen.

As you will see from the video, he became very emotional as he walked the length of the building where hundreds of staff were waiting for him. A “flashmob” was arranged, too, and a dance involving personnel from each of the factories, departments and shops in every country where Inditex is present.

He is a discreet man, preferring to stay quietly in the background and has only ever given 3 interviews throughout his business life.

In a time when Spain has suffered heavily during the economic crisis, Amancio Ortega’s story should be of encouragement to Spaniards and others in the country who are starting their own business. Of course, not everyone will achieve what Ortega has achieved but his story shows that “being ahead of the game” is partly what breeds success.

As he walked with his daughter, shaking hands with people and being applauded all the way, many of the 152,854 staff showed their respect. He has made a personal fortune of some £50 billion but Ortega’s success has given full employment to many thousands of people in his home country of Spain and elsewhere in the world. That is also part of the celebration.


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