The billionaire founder behind Zara has tapped his youngest daughter to chair the fast fashion giant, in a surprise move that brings the world’s biggest clothing retailer back under the family’s control.
Marta Ortega Pérez, 37, will step into the position in April, according to a Tuesday statement released by the chain’s parent company, Inditex. She has worked at the company for the last 15 years — starting as a sales clerk in London before taking on larger roles in women’s merchandising, branding and other areas — but has not held an official title and has never been part of the board. She will replace company veteran Pablo Isla, who has worked at Inditex for nearly two decades, first as chief executive officer and most recently as executive chair. Inditex shares dropped 6% on the news, wiping more than $3 billion from founder Amancio Ortega’s fortune.
“I have lived and breathed this company since my childhood,” said Pérez in a statement. “I have always said that I would dedicate my life to building upon my parents’ legacy.”
The move brings the chain back under the family’s control, after a decade of being run by outsiders. Founder Amancio Ortega, 85, relinquished day-to-day management duties when he stepped down as chair in 2011. However, he remains the company’s controlling shareholder, with a 60% stake in the company, making him one of the wealthiest people on the planet with a fortune of $73 billion.
In his pick, Ortega passed over two older children he had with his first wife, neither of whom are involved with the business. His daughter Sandra Ortega Mera, 53, is a major shareholder, inheriting a 4.5% stake after her mother and company cofounder, Rosalia Mera, died suddenly in 2013. That makes her the second-richest person in Spain, with a net worth of $6.9 billion. Mera, a trained psychologist, lives in the same coastal Spanish town of La Coruña where she grew up and where the company is headquartered with her husband and three kids. Ortega also has a son.
Ortega started the business in 1975 with then-wife Mera, who stitched some of their first pieces of clothing by hand at home. The two divorced in 1975. Ortega went on to become a pioneer in the fast fashion industry, strategically keeping inventory levels down and prices low by spinning out styles much faster than competitors. Today, the company has 6,600 stores and $16.7 billion in annual sales.
Inditex has has been working to recover from the pandemic, after sales were hit by temporary store closures and a pullback in spending on clothes. Last year, it wrote off over $300 million in unsold inventory. Its model of selling mountains of cheap, disposable clothing has also increasingly come under pressure in an industry grappling with sustainability and its impact on the planet.