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Zara’s owner has passed Warren Buffett to become the world’s second-richest man

People walk by one of Zara's stores in central Madrid December 14, 2011. Sales growth at Spain's Inditex, the world's largest clothing retailer and owner of the popular Zara label, eased in the third quarter as the euro zone debt crisis rattled shoppers and unseasonably good autumn weather altered spending patterns. But the company, founded by Spain's richest man Amancio Ortega, still cheered the market with evidence it remains capable of outperforming rivals. The group reported a surprise 100 basis point increase in its profit margin and said sales growth in the fourth quarter had recovered.
Reuters/Susana Vera
Zara is coming for you, Bill Gates.
By Marc Bain
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Amancio Ortega, the Spanish fast-fashion baron behind Zara—known for peddling cheap, trendy items like $15 crop-tops—has surpassed Warren Buffett to claim the title of world’s second-richest person.

His net worth, according to Bloomberg, is $71.5 billion compared to Buffett’s $70.2 billion—although Buffett would’ve been ahead if not for his philanthropic giving. Still, that leaves Ortega behind only Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who had $85.5 billion as of June 2.

The ranking is indicative not only of Ortega’s tremendous business acumen—he started Zara in 1975, making lingerie and bathrobes with his former wife in their living room—but also of the world’s seemingly insatiable desire for low-priced clothes. Just think of the margin on a $15 crop-top and how many of those you would need to sell to rival Ortega’s net worth.

Ortega’s company Inditex, which owns Zara, continues to go from strength to strength. In March, it reported net profit for the fiscal year was up 5% from the previous year, and that it planned to open up to 480 more stores this year. Currently, the company operates more than 6,600 stores in 88 countries across the world, and offers e-commerce in at least 27 of those markets.

Ortega has done it all with a relatively unique business model. While many other retailers were moving production to China to cut costs, Zara kept most of its manufacturing close to its home base in La Coruña. That allowed Zara to react quickly to trends and get products in stores right away. Customers could always count on  Zara to find something new and on-trend.

Today, that’s still the case—Zara famously gets new shipments of clothing in its stores twice a week. And as Ortega’s new title proves, shoppers all over the world are happy to keep stopping in.

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