Amancio Ortega, who has unexpectedly thrown his name into the ring to buy Manchester United, is an elusive figure.
As one of the co-founders of Inditex – most known for the Zara fashion chain – the 86-year-old has become one of the world’s richest people. At one point, he was the world’s richest man, overtaking Bill Gates in 2016, although he has since fallen down that list.
Now, it is thought he wants to some some of his enormous wealth to buy the Red Devils – a remarkable decision to thrust himself into the limelight for a man who has given just a handful of media interviews in his lifetime.
But just who is Ortega, and how did he become rich enough to compete with the likes of Apple and Sir Jim Ratcliffe for the right to buy Manchester United? Here, we answer some of those questions.
Amancio Ortega made his billions in the fashion world as the man behind the Inditex company
Who is Amancio Ortega?
Amancio Ortega Gaona was born on March 28 1936, as the youngest of four children. He started working for a shirtmaker at the age of 14, where he learnt to make clothes by hand, and also worked as a delivery boy.
His life in the world of fashion quickly focused on two core principles – customer preference and speed. He first applied this approach to Confecciones Goa (his initials backwards), a bathrobe business in 1963. This was the company that eventually turned into Inditex, one of the biggest names in global fashion, which also runs Bershka and Stradivarius.
With his first wife Rosalia Mera, they opened their first Zara store in 1975, which allowed them to sell directly to consumers.
Armancio and Rosalia married in 1966, and divorced two decades later. Their daughter Marta Ortega Perez is now the chair of Inditex. Rosalia died in 2013 at the age of 69.
Ortega has previously kept a low-profile, giving just three media interviews up until 2012
There is limited information on Ortega as he prefers to keep a low-profile. There was no photograph of him published until the year 2000, and he had only given three interviews to media journalists up until 2012.
He has a huge real estate catalogue across Europe and the USA, but it was reported that he spent most of his time with his second wife Flora Perez Marcote in an apartment in A Coruna, Spain, where he has lived since he was a teenager.
How did Ortega become so wealthy?
His experiences as a delivery boy and an assistant in a tailor’s shop meant that he saw what customers were after, and he used this approach to his own company.
From the start of Zara in 1975, the company grew steadily throughout the 1980s and 1990s. During this time, they adopted new technology to speed up their processes. They also kept advertising spending down.
He first became a billionaire in 2001 when Inditex was listed on the Madrid Stock Exchange in 2001, after a strong period of growth throughout Spain in the 1990s. He ate in the company cafeteria when Inditex was floated on the stock market, even though the move increased his wealth by $6bn.
Ortega has shunned the media spotlight, and refuses to wear a tie, or any products from Zara
That same year, he founded the Amancio Ortega Foundation, a charitable organization focused on education and social welfare. He has also spent over €300m to fight cancer across Spain, and donated millions to Roman Catholic relief organisation Caritas Internationalis in 2012.
Inditex is the holding company for seven retail brands – Zara, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho, and Zara Home.
Ortega retired as CEO of Inditex in 2005 and stepped down as chairman in 2011. However, he still retains a 59% stake of the company.
What made Zara such a success – and why has he stayed out of the limelight?
He refuses to wear a tie and instead sticks to a simple uniform that does not contain any products from Zara.
However, the Zara brand has attracted famous fans across the world, including Kate Middleton, Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner.
Zara has used ‘fast fashion’ to become one of the most recognisable names on the high street
Zara was one of the leading exponents of so-called ‘fast fashion’. They were also able to get coats from the design stage to shelves in less than a month, while some items were available within two weeks of the idea.
The team were also known for borrowing catwalk concepts and giving them a high-street friendly price, which led to Zara’s growth from its start in 1975 to become a staple name in shopping centres across the world.
The quick turnaround of ideas meant that products were more in line with what customers wanted, and left shops selling more items, instead of being lumbered with unsold inventory.
Despite the continued success of Zara, and other brands under the Inditex umbrella, he has shunned the media spotlight, and given few interviews.
He has maintained a largely private life. He would expect to face more media scrutiny if he was to purchase Manchester United.
It is also unclear how the club would be run on a daily basis, and who would control the club when the 86-year-old is no longer able to.
Amancio Ortega with his daughter Marta, who became president of Inditex in April 2022
What has he done since retirement?
Since stepping down from active operations at Inditex, he has focused on real estate, creating the largest portfolio of any European billionaire.
This includes an office block in London’s Mayfair, Madrid’s tallest building – the Torre Picasso – and multiples buildings across Spain and the USA.
Even losing a reported $10bn during the pandemic has still not greatly affected Ortega’s overall wealth. According to the Forbes rich-list, the 86-year-old is worth $61.3bn – which would more than cover the cost of buying Manchester United, and investing in their players and infrastructure.
What is his interest in football?
He is a huge fan of his hometown club Deportivo La Coruna, and some stories have even claimed he owned them, something which does not appear to be supported by evidence.
He can often be seen in the stands of their Riazor stadium as a fan – and it was claimed he delayed his daughter’s expensive wedding to see them play.
The club had several seasons in the Champions League earlier in the 2000s – playing Manchester United on six occasions – but have since slipped to the third tier of Spanish football.
Ortega is a fan of Deportivo La Coruna, who have slipped from Champions League to third tier
Who is rivalling him to buy Manchester United?
Apple have said that they are interested in buying the club, in what would be a deal above $5million.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe has also thrown his name into the ring to buy Manchester United, after years of speculation that he might be tempted to make an offer. His team have said in recent times that they are focusing on his current teams, Nice in France, and Lausanne in Switzerland.
Qatar World Cup ambassador David Beckham has also stated he would be interested in being involved in a potential takeover bid for his former club.
Dubai are also thought to be interested, while Elon Musk has previously joked that he would be interested in buying Manchester United, according to Sportsmail’s previous list of potential buyers who have emerged amid news that the Glazers are considering selling Manchester United after 17 years in charge.
A top priority for United’s new owner will be to upgrade their famous ground, Old Trafford