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Wednesday, 19 June 2019

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From poverty to become Europe's richest man

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Amancio Ortega may be the richest man you've never heard of, though the high street clothes retailer he founded 40 years ago — Zara — is world-famous.

The Spanish multi-billionaire isn't just the wealthiest person in his own country— he's the richest man in Europe.

According to Bloomberg, his net worth runs to $70.4 billion (£46 billion), making him the world's third-wealthiest individual, beaten only by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and legendary investor Warren Buffet.

Both Forbes and Bloomberg say that his net worth is somewhere between $25 billion to $30 billion (£16.3 billion to £19.6 billion) higher than the next-wealthiest European.
And unlike many of Europe's richest people, Ortega was not born into money. Here's how the notoriously reclusive billionaire (until a few years ago there were barely any pictures of him in the public domain) went from humble beginnings to commanding Europe's biggest fortune.

A rags-to-riches story

Many of Europe's richest individuals gain their wealth through their family history. In the European Union's three largest countries, the richest people are Germany's George Schaeffler, France's Liliane Bettencourt, and the UK's Gerald Grosvenor (better known as the Duke of Westminster), all of whom had inherited their wealth.
That's not true at all of Ortega, who started his life in relative poverty. According to Covadonga O'Shea, Ortega's biographer, his early life was very humble. His father earned 300 pesetas per month — a meagre salary even for post-war Spain, where the economy took a long time to recover from the 1930s civil war. To put that in context, a dozen eggs in Spain would have cost Ortega's father about a tenth of his monthly income.
In a video, O'Shea tells an illuminating anecdote from Ortega's childhood: "They went to buy some goods at the grocery, he heard someone that told his mother... they couldn't keep giving her credit to buy the food that she needed for the family dinner that evening."
Ortega left school shortly after, at the age of 13 or 14 and went to work as a messenger boy in a shop.
O'Shea says that experience was formative for Ortega: "This horrible moment in which he realised the dramatic situation of poverty would never happen again to his family."

She adds: “The consequence of that slap on the face he suffered when still he was a very young boy has been the creation of one of the most important Spanish enterprises... with a global presence in most of the world.”

Founding Zara

Zara was founded in 1975, when Ortega was nearly 40 years old, in La Coruna.