Spanish Retailer Just Became The Richest Person In The World

Amancio Ortega

Amancio Ortega, co-founder of Spanish retailing giant Inditex, is now the richest person on the planet, with a $200 million edge over the previous leader Bill Gates.

Ortega has held the top position three other times, but he has always relinquished the lead within two days. Most recently, he surpassed Gates on Tuesday, after shares of Inditex—the parent company of fashion chain Zara—rose just over 1%. But by the end of the afternoon, he was $100 million behind the Microsoft co-founder.

Then, on Wednesday, Ortega regained the top spot. As of 12:05 pm Eastern Time, he was richer than Gates by a modest margin of $200 million.

Ortega, 81, is now worth an estimated $85 billion, according to Forbes’ real-time rankings of the world’s billionaires. His net worth is up $1.2 billion in the last month, but his ascent has also been aided by declines to the fortunes of Gates and Jeff Bezos, who have each held the title of world’s richest at some point this summer.

Bezos’ net worth has dropped by more than $4 billion in the last month as Amazon shares have fallen from a record high. Gates’ fortune declined earlier this month after a filing with the SEC revealed that he donated $4.6 billion worth of Microsoft stock to his foundation in June. That gift was first reported by Bloomberg.

Ortega became the richest person in the world for the first time in October 2015, but he lost his spot to Gates in less than 24 hours. He regained the lead in September 2016 but was quickly overtaken by Gates once again.

A former store clerk, Ortega founded Inditex with his late ex-wife, Rosalia Mera, in 1975. They grew the business into an international powerhouse that now has a market capitalization of more than $100 billion.

A resident of Spain, Ortega no longer has a day-to-day role at the company. He has recently focused on diversifying his fortune with a host of global investments, and he has poured huge sums into the international real estate. He typically collects over $400 million in dividends from Inditex every year. Much of that cash is spent on property investments in New York, Madrid, London and elsewhere.

Despite that diversification, Ortega still holds more than 80% of his wealth in Inditex shares. As the stock has ticked up over the years, his net worth has followed suit.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Ortega has never been the world’s richest person for more than a day. In reality, he held the top spot for two days in September 2016. 

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