Zara founder makes a mint
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Perhaps the most unusual thing about retail fashion firm Zara's beginnings is how little is known about its owner.
Amancio Ortega, born in Leon in 1936, has become one of the world's richest men.
In 1963 he left the clothes shop in La Coruna, northern Spain, where he was working as a shop assistant to start his own lingerie production firm.
His project grew into the clothing chain Zara, with the first shop opening in 1975.
Ortega is rarely seen and there is only one known passport-size photograph of him that appeared in the Inditex report and accounts in 1999.
He keeps a low profile, by all accounts because of a genuine desire to lead a quiet life rather than a tendency to being an obsessive recluse. He allegedly refuses to wear a tie and likes to dress in jeans.
When he eventually made a public appearance in 2000 to promote the upcoming flotation of his company, it made headlines in Spain's financial press.
Ortega is a self-made man and his textile empire now consists of more than 1,000 stores worldwide. It reported sales of $2.43 billion last year.
Ortega created Inditex as the holding company for Zara. The group consists of other retail brands including Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka and Stradivarius, although Zara continues to account for 80% of the group's revenue.
Zara has created a business model that has been so successful that it saw profit growth of 39 percent a year on average between 1994 and 1999, beating its more famous competitors such as Gap and H&M.
When 26 percent of the shares in Zara's parent company, Inditex, were floated on the Mardrid stock exchange last month, Ortega was propelled into the world's top 50 rich list.
The flotation was a spectacular success. Investors rushed to buy the shares, pushing the share price 22 percent higher on the first day of trade to $9.3 billion.
The shares were so popular that those sold internationally were more than 53 times over subscribed.
After selling 14 percent of his shares and netting more than $1 billion, Ortega's remaining 61 percent share of the company was estimated to be worth $5.5 billion.
The shares have since risen a further five percent, propelling the company into Spain's top IBEX 35 index.
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