When news broke that Zara heiress Marta Ortega Pérez was taking the kidneys, it caused a stock bloodbath. Now, she’s had the last laugh.
Zara’s parent company lost billions late last year following the bombshell announcement that its founder’s glamorous young daughter was taking on the top job.
But just six months later, Marta Ortega Pérez has proved the world wrong.
Amancio Ortega founded fashion giant Zara in 1975 and is now Spain’s richest man, with a staggering net worth of more than $A85 billion.
The 86-year-old controls around 60 per cent of parent company Inditex’s shares and in 2015 he was briefly the richest person on the planet when the firm’s stock peaked.
Today, Inditex boasts more than 6000 stores across the globe, including Zara, Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear, Bershka and Stradivarius labels.
But in November 2021, it was revealed that Ortega’s 38-year-old daughter would become Inditex’s next chair as part of the fashion juggernaut’s “generational handover process” – an announcement that sparked a share price bloodbath.
Within hours, shares were down by as much as 6 per cent, representing a capital loss of billions for Inditex, which had started to rebound after the pandemic.
The news was slammed by a string of commentators, who described the change as “risky” and a “backwards step”.
But after officially stepping into the role on April 1 this year, Ms Ortega Perez is having the last laugh.
Marta’s $480 million feat
Marta Ortega Pérez has worked for Inditex – now the world’s biggest clothing retailer – for 15 years after starting out as a shop assistant in London.
And despite only calling the shots for less than three months, she’s already overseen truly mind-blowing results.
Last week it was revealed that Inditex had enjoyed a staggering 80 per cent jump in first-quarter profit at the end of April.
That represents a net profit of €760 million ($A1,141,440,200), compared to €440 million ($A660.8 million) in the same period in 2021.
That’s a $A480.6 million increase from the same time last year – and while Ms Ortega Pérez was only at the helm for a third of that period, it’s a seriously solid beginning, especially given the brutal misgivings many expressed when her promotion was first revealed.
During the first quarter, sales also jumped by 36 per cent to €6.7 billion ($A10 billion), and the company’s gross margin reached a decade high, with the news sending shares up by 5 per cent last week.
The impressive results were attributed to a boom in fashion spending post-lockdown, with Zara attracting customers despite jacking up prices at a time when cost of living pressures were weighing heavily on the market.
And the profits would have been higher still – at €940 million ($A1.4 billion) – if it were not for Inditex’s €216 million ($A324 million) provision for estimated costs related to Ukraine and Russia for all of 2022.
CEO Garcia Maceiras told analysts, Inditex would keep raising prices in the next quarter, but that the focus on affordable fashion would remain.
He added the welcome results were thanks to a “well-differentiated model that is delivering strongly”.
“The strength and adaptability of the business model and the excellent performance of our creative, sales and operating teams are driving that differentiation forward, underpinned by a strategic focus on innovation, digitalization and sustainability,” he said in a statement.
Who is Marta Ortega Perez?
Born in 1984 in Vigo, Spain, Ms Ortega Pérez is the only child of the Inditex’s founder and his second wife, Flora Pérez.
She has worked for Inditex since the age of 23, when she landed a role as shop assistant in a London store.
Since then, she has worked her way up, most recently working on Zara’s brand image, and
in her spare time enjoys a passion for horseriding and languages.
She is a regular fixture at the front row of fashion shows, rubbing shoulders with fashion icons like Anna Wintour and Diane von Furstenberg.
In 2018, she wed second husband Carlos Torretta, who works in Inditex’s public relations department, in a lavish ceremony which was splashed across the society pages of Europe’s glossy magazines.
Ms Ortega Pérez has one son with her ex-husband Sergio Álvarez Moya, and she welcomed daughter Matilda, her first child with Mr Torretta, in 2020.