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Françoise Bettencourt Meyers (French: [fʁɑ̃swaz bɛtɑ̃kuʁ mɛjɛʁs]; born 1953) is a French businesswoman, philanthropist, writer, pianist and billionaire heiress, the richest woman in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$75.3 billion as of March 2022, according to Forbes. She is the only child, heiress of Liliane Bettencourt and granddaughter of L’Oréal Paris founder Eugène Schueller. Her mother died in September 2017, after which her fortune tripled with her investments through her family holding company, Tethys Invest, and the high valuation of L’Oréal shares on the stock exchange.[1]

Raised to be a strict Catholic,[2] she has written several Bible commentaries.[3] She is the only daughter and heiress of Liliane Bettencourt. She married Jean-Pierre Meyers, the grandson of a rabbi murdered at Auschwitz, and they raised their children Jean-Victor and Nicolas as Jewish.[3] Her marriage caused controversy because of her grandfather Eugène Schueller‘s trial for collaboration with the Nazi government; he was L’Oreal’s founder.[4] Bettencourt Meyers and her family still own a 33% stake in the company.[5][1]

In 1963, he founded Confecciones Goa to sell quilted bathrobes.[7]

In 1975, he opened his first Zara store with his wife Rosalía Mera.[8]

In 2009, Zara was part of the Inditex group (Industrias de Diseño Textil Sociedad Anónima), of which Ortega owned 59.29%, and aside from over 6,000 stores included the brands ZaraMassimo Dutti, Oysho, Zara Home, Kiddy’s Class, Tempe, Stradivarius, Pull and BearBershka and has more than 92,000 employees.[9]

His public appearance in 2000, as part of the warm-up prior to his company’s initial public offering on the stock market in 2001, made headlines in the Spanish financial press. However, he has only ever granted interviews to three journalists.[10]

In 2011, Ortega announced his imminent retirement from Inditex, parent company of the Zara chain, stating that he would ask Inditex vice-president and CEO Pablo Isla to take his place as head. In 2012 Ortega donated about €20 million to Caritas Internationalis, a Roman Catholic relief organisation.[11]

He purchased the Torre Picasso skyscraper in Madrid. He also purchased the Epic Residences and Hotel in Miami, Florida.[12]

In July 2017, for its second edition of the AEF awards, the Spanish Association of Foundations awarded Amancio Ortega in the 2017 Philanthropic Initiative category.[13] He also donated 300 million euros to fight cancer across Spain, which were invested in the purchase of 440 machines to detect the disease. As a result of this, the number of Spanish public hospitals equipped with stereotactic radiotherapy machines has risen from 20 to 70.[14] However, these decisions were not unanimously welcomed and were criticized by some political parties like Podemos.[15] Recently, news indicate that he has bought the Troy Block complex, known to the public as one of the buildings where Amazon Seattle has its headquarters.[16]

It was revealed in July 2020 that Ortega’s property holdings, through his investment company Pontegadea, were worth $17.2 billion. Ortega is the executive chairman of Pontegadea, and real estate assets in his portfolio include Manhattan’s Haughwout Building and Southeast Financial Center. In 2019, the company completed a $72.5 million deal for a downtown Chicago hotel, which followed purchases of a building in Washington’s central business district and two Seattle office buildings.[17][18]

Ortega was reported to have lost $10 billion as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.[19]

Personal life[edit]

A drawing of Ortega.

Ortega is very private about his personal life, and as of 2012 he has only given three interviews to journalists. Ortega is very reclusive and keeps a very low profile.[20] Until 1999, no photograph of Ortega had ever been published.

He likes to dress simply, refuses to wear a tie, and typically prefers to wear a simple uniform of a blue blazer, white shirt, and gray trousers, none of which are Zara products.[10]

He married Rosalía Mera Goyenechea in 1966, they had two children, Marcos and Sandra Ortega Mera, the couple divorced in 1986. Mera died in August 2013 at the age of 69. He married his second wife Flora Pérez Marcote in 2001, with whom he had a daughter, Marta Ortega Pérez, in 1984 .[21] As of 2017, despite owning a huge real estate portfolio he mostly lives with his wife in his apartment in A Coruña, Spain.[12]

He is mostly spotted being driven around in a black Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W221) and a black Mercedes-Benz GL-Class (X166). He owns two yachts “Drizzle” and “Valoria B” as well as Gulfstream G650 and Bombardier Global Express private jets.[22][23]

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