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Free Market in Action: Meet the 3rd Richest Man in the World

After Gates and Slim comes Amancio Ortega, who built the world's largest fashion empire, Zara. He's difficult to know, impossible to interview, and incredibly secretive. An exclusive portrait.

If such a fortune seems big, it is even more astonishing when you consider the man himself. The youngest of four children, Ortega was born in Busdongo de Arbas, a hamlet of 60 people in northern Spain, in 1936, just as the Spanish Civil War was erupting. The family scraped by on his father's railway job while his mother worked as a housemaid. When Amancio was a small boy, the family moved to La Coruña. There, home was a row house that abutted the train tracks and that served, as it still does today, as the railway workers' quarters. Amancio might have joined the rail service too, had it not been for one fateful evening when he was just 13. Walking home from his school, he and his mother stopped at a local store, where he stood by as his mother pleaded for credit. "He heard someone say, 'Señora, I cannot give this to you. You have to pay for it,'" says Covadonga O'Shea, a longtime friend of Ortega's who runs a fashion business school at the University of Navarra in Madrid and wrote the sole authorized biography of him, The Man From Zara. "He felt so humiliated, he decided he would never go back to school."
Barely in his teens, Ortega found a job as a shop hand for a local shirtmaker called Gala, which still sits on the same corner in downtown La Coruña...
More: http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2013/01/08/zara-amancio-or...



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