A brief introduction to…Amancio Ortega

Ortega is a Spanish businessman and the wealthiest retailer in the world. He is the founder of Inditex which is perhaps best known for its Zara brand. It was from an early age that Ortega gained his hand in the fashion business when, as a teenager, he began a job for a shirtmaker in A Coruña, making shirts by hand, learning the hard way. Zara began from a single shop base, which he opened with his wife in 1975. Unbelievably since then his business has grown to over 6000 stores and he employs 92,000 people worldwide.

Ortega is famous for being incredibly private and has reportedly only ever given interviews to three journalists. He is said to be a very humble man who eats with his employees as well as working alongside them as much as possible.

Ortega has been so successful probably because he focuses on the simplicity of business aims: giving customers what they want as quickly as possible. Indeed, Zara stores change their stock twice a week and they monitor what their customers like and really want.

This model is likely to continue to prove successful as Ortega grows older. He is showing no signs of retiring with sales booming and the company ever growing. Truly the billionaire mindset.

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A brief introduction to…Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault is currently featured in third place on the rich list and is the wealthiest European on the list, currently worth over $85 billion. He is the Chair and CEO of LVMH and his business empire stretched to 70 different brands, including having bought nearly all of Christian Dior, which stretched his fortune significantly.

Arnault started off in business on the right footing, working first for his father’s successful construction company, although it was Bernard who convinced the family to switch the business from construction to property more generally, specialising in holiday accommodation and growing the company as a result.

It was in the mid-1980s that Arnault began to get involved in the luxury goods that he would become known for. In 1984 he acquired Financière Agache, a company specialising in luxury items and in turn, as CEO, got involved with a struggling company called Boussac Saint-Frères which owned Christian Dior.

LVMH was formed in the late 1980s, merging two separate companies. Arnault was the first shareholder, spending $600million on 13.5% of the business. Not a small amount! Under his leadership over time he has transformed the company and it is now one of the largest luxury goods companies in the world.

Some of Arnault’s other investments

You might not know that Arnault owns a percentage of Netflix, bought in 1999; as well as 10.69% of France’s largest supermarket Carrefour. He also owns a yacht business: Princess Yachts.

Arnault is a notable collector of art and owns pieces by Picasso, Andy Warhol and Henry Moore. He is married to a Canadian pianist called Hélène Mercier-Arnault and they have three sons. He also has a son and a daughter with his first wife Anne Dewavrin.

A brief introduction to…Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos is the wealthiest person in the world at the moment. As the founder, Chair and CEO of internet giant Amazon, Bezos is the first person to be worth over $100 billion, and is currently worth a good deal more than that. It is perhaps no wonder that of all the entrepreneurs in the list it is Bezos who’s wealth has skyrocketed as much as it has. Millions of us, myself included, use Amazon daily to buy anything from books and films to garden furniture and health and beauty products. In fact it has become as much a ‘go to’ website for most of us as Google or Facebook. When we want to buy something it is perhaps one of the first sites on our minds. After all, it’s easy to buy from, the service is good (most of the time) and it’s quick as a process.

Bezos was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and grew up in Houston, Texas. He studied physics at Princeton but later changed his degree to Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.

It was following an eight year career in Wall Street that he founded Amazon, which initially focused on selling books. Like many businesses it started on a small scale in his garage, but Bezos was determined to attract investment, even though he warned investors in the early days that there was a pretty good chance that the venture would fail. The early days of the company were in fact meteoric and within 2 months sales had reached $20,000 every week! Clearly Bezos was on to something (by 2011 this would be $17 billion a year!). The Amazon story is one of swings and roundabouts, with for example 14% of the company workforce being laid off in the early 2000s. However, without doubt it is a powerhouse today.

He is married to MacKenzie Bezos (nee Tuttle) who he first met at the investment firm D.E Shaw where Bezos was a senior vice president, in the years before Amazon was even thought of as an idea. They got married in 1993. His wife has been with him throughout the journey and they now have four children, including an adopted daughter.

Some things you might not know about Bezos and Amazon…

  • Bezos bought The Washington Post in 2013 for a cool $250 million.
  • The first employee of Amazon was Shel Kaphan in the days when they worked from Bezos’ garage.
  • Amazon wasn’t called Amazon from day 1. It was also called Cadabra, or ‘Relentless.com’ at times.
  • Bezos was involved in a helicopter accident in 2003.
  • In 2000 Bezos started a space company – Blue Origin.

 

In the next ‘brief introduction to…’ we’ll be taking a look at Microsoft’s Bill Gates.