On Thursday, Forbes reported that Amancio Ortega overtook Bill Gates as the richest man in the world. According to the article, Ortega’s personal fortune rose by $1.7 billion as shares in his business, Inditex, jumped by 2.5 percent on Wednesday. However, upon closer analysis, this claim may be misleading.
Shares of Ortega’s business, Inditex, parent company to Zara, Massimo Dutti, and Pull&Bear, rose 2.5 percent on Wednesday, boosting his personal fortune by $1.7 billion. But, contrary to most reports, it did not take Ortega’s net worth above that of Microsoft founder, Bill Gates. Using data from Bloomberg’s billionaire index, although Ortega’s net worth rose from $77.8 billion to $79.5 billion, it was far from Gates’ estimated net worth of $89.8 billion on the same day.
It is highly unlikely that the Spanish billionaire, who started his career as a store clerk, surpassed Bill Gates even for a second on Wednesday. The difference between their net worths is around 10 billion dollars. A gain of 1.7 billion dollars is eight odd billion short. Unless Gates lost 8 billion dollars on that day, which he did not. He lost $204.5 million, according to Bloomberg data. Bill Gates, the tech billionaire turned philanthropist, remains the richest man in the world by a distance despite donating over $29 billion in stock and cash to his foundation over his lifetime.
In 1995, Gates made his first appearance atop Forbes World’s Billionaires list, which is published in March, yearly. Gates has held the top spot for 15 out of 20 years since Forbes started curating the billionaires’ list. Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim Helú and American investor Warren Buffett have knocked Gate off the top spot in the past, but that doesn’t seem likely this year.
Who is Armancio Ortega?
Armancio Ortega may not have claimed the throne of the world’s richest man but has been number two for at least a year, overtaking Mexican telecoms magnate, Carlos Slim, and billionaire investor, Warren Buffet.
From La Coruña, Spain, Ortega is the son of a railway worker. He started his career as a store clerk in his hometown before opening his own business. Beginning with less than $100, he and his wife Rosalia Mera began making lingerie, pajamas and nightgowns in their living room.
Ortega and his wife (now divorced) opened a store named Zara in 1975. By the mid-1980’s, Ortega had expanded to nine locations around Spain. In 1984, he opened a 10,000 square foot logistics hub.
Ortega focused most of his resources and efforts turning his company into one of the most efficient retailing operations in the world. In the early 2000’s Zara was designing, selling and distributing new products in a matter of weeks while competitors like Gap and H&M were doing it in five months. That meant Ortega could keep up with the fast-changing tastes of consumers and he spent less on warehousing.
Ortega debuted on Forbes Billionaire List in 2001 with a net worth of $6.6 billion when his business went public. Gates was already the richest man in the world, with a fortune of $58.7 billion at the time, but Ortega has caught up remarkably since then.