The Hong Kong Telegraph - Marta Ortega, the heiress taking the reins of Zara

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Marta Ortega, the heiress taking the reins of Zara
Marta Ortega, the heiress taking the reins of Zara

Marta Ortega, the heiress taking the reins of Zara

Marta Ortega, whose father founded Zara-owner Inditex, will become the world's most powerful woman in the ready-to-wear sector when she takes the reins of the company on Friday.

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Described as discreet and reserved, the 38-year-old has long been expected to one day take over the world's biggest fashion retailer ahead of Sweden's H&M, with roughly 6,500 shops around the globe.

But it was only in November that Inditex announced that she would on April 1 take the place of Inditex chairman Pablo Isla, who oversaw a massive expansion of the firm over the past decade.

The shake-up was orchestrated by Marta's father Amancio Ortega, who founded Inditex in 1985. He resigned as chairman in 2011 but still owns a 59 percent stake, making him one of the world's richest men.

"We have been preparing for this transition for a long time," Isla, who is leaving the firm, told a press conference called to announce the changes.

"Marta has been working in the company for 15 years. She has led many projects" and "knows it like the back of her hand," he added.

- Fashion world connections -

The only child from Amancio Ortega's second marriage to Flora Perez, Marta grew up in the rainy fishing port of La Coruna in northwestern Spain with her half-sister Sandra and half-brother Marcos.

After attending a Swiss boarding school and graduating from the European Business School in London in 2007, she briefly worked as a shop assistant at a Zara store in London to better understand how they operate.

"The first week, I thought I was not going to survive. But then you get kind of addicted to the store. Some people never want to leave," she said during a rare interview with the Wall Street Journal in August 2021.

While she did not reveal that she was the Inditex owner's daughter, her colleagues at the shop have told Spanish media they soon figured it out when they noticed the Rolex watch she wore.

Ortega, who is passionate about horse riding and has competed in show jumping events, went on to work at Inditex's headquarters in Galicia, where she in recent years worked on Zara's brand image.

"She established many ties with the world of fashion," Alfred Vernis, a professor at Spanish business school ESADE and former Inditex executive, told AFP.

With her slim figure and blonde hair, Ortega is regularly seen at the front row of fashion shows, rubbing shoulders with fashion icons such as Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

- 'Well prepared' -

Under her watch Zara developed campaigns with some of the most renowned creative people in the sector such as US fashion photographer Steven Meisel, who won acclaim for his photos of Madonna in her 1992 book Sex, and Italian director Luca Guadagnino.

She is also credited with helping to set Zara's image apart from its competitors by opening stores on streets dominated by designer boutiques.

But when her appointment as chairwoman was announced, questions were raised about her lack of management experience, causing Inditex shares to drop. The concerns appear to have faded since then.

Ortega is "well prepared" and is "well surrounded" at the firm, said Vernis.

Inditex's CEO, Oscar Garcia Maceiras, formerly of Spanish banking giant Santander, "will be the one who takes executive decisions" although "she will have to play a role," he added.

She is taking the position as the global economy faces headwinds from Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, which prompted Inditex to close its 502 shops in Russia.

Ortega will earn one million euros ($1.1 million) per year as the chairwoman of Inditex, which owns seven other brands in addition to Zara including Massimo Dutti, Bershka and Stradivarius.

While Ortega is very discreet about her personal life like the rest of her family, photos of her lavish 2018 wedding to her second husband Carlos Torretta were splashed across celebrity magazines.

She had a daughter with Torretta in 2020 and has a son with her ex-husband Sergio Alvarez Moya.