Armancio Ortega, the founder of the textile group Inditex, is now the third richest man in the world according to the magazine Forbes which published its rich list on Monday.
Ortega has moved up two places over the last year from being the fifth richest man in the world and has a fortune estimated at 57 billion U.S. dollars, up 19.5 billion dollars since the start of March 2012.
He is only beaten by Mexican Carlos Slim and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Although he stepped down as the chairman of Inditex in 2011, Ortega still owns 60 percent of the shares of the group whose most famous brand is Zara, which he founded in 1975 and which has grown since then to become a worldwide phenomenon, which by the end of October 2012 had almost 2,000 stores and was represented in every continent on earth.
Key to Zara’s recent growth has been its expansion in China, while last year also saw the store open up its website in Chinese in order to expand its market penetration beyond the 50 plus cities which currently have stores.
2012 was a good year for Inditex, which registered a 27 percent rise in profits in the first 10 months of the year as the group was able to withstand the effects of the economic crisis and see its volume of sales rise by 17 percent.
This was partly due to the fact the group, which also includes marks such as Massimo Dutti, Pull and Bear, and Bershka, opened almost 400 new stores during the year, including the group’s 6000th store, which is on London’s emblematic Oxford Street.
However, Ortega’s fortune does not solely rely on his interests in the fashion industry and the 76-year-old now has many economic interests, which include real estate: he own the Torre Picasso in the heart of the Madrid business district, as well as other influential properties such as the Coral Gabels office tower in the United States, and further properties in Miami, Lisbon, London and Spain.