Fashion heiress lands top job at Zara: Spanish patriarch makes way for a new generation
Marta Ortega Pérez will take over as chairman at the world’s largest fashion group in April
The daughter of the founder of Zara owner Inditex has been handed control of the company.
Marta Ortega Perez takes over as chairman in April at the world’s largest fashion group, which has 6,654 shops and 162,450 staff. The 37-year-old is the only child of Inditex founder Amancio Ortega and his second wife Flora Perez and has worked for the £75billion company for the past 15 years. Having started out aged 22 as a sales associate at the Zara store on King’s Road in London, Ortega Perez has been credited with strengthening its brand and clothes offering.
‘I have lived and breathed this company since my childhood, and I have learned from all the great professionals I have worked with over the last 15 years,’ she said. ‘I have always said that I would dedicate my life to building upon my parents’ legacy, looking to the future but learning from the past and serving the company, our shareholders and our customers where I’m most needed. I’m deeply honoured by the trust been placed in me, and enormously excited about the future.’
Her promotion was part of a wider shake-up that unnerved investors and sent shares down 6 per cent in Madrid.
She will replace Pablo Isla, who served as deputy chairman and chief executive between 2005 and 2011 before becoming executive chairman and was the first person outside the Ortega family to lead the business.
‘We believe the time has come to turn a new page,’ said Isla, 57.
The shake-up also saw general counsel and board secretary Oscar Garcia Maceiras promoted to chief executive.
The 46-year-old will take over from Carlos Crespo, who has been in post since July 2019 and will become chief operating officer.
Like father, like daughter: Marta Ortega Pérez is the only child of Inditex founder Amancio Ortega and his second wife Flora Pérez
Inditex is majority-owned by Amancio Ortega, Spain’s richest man, who has a 59.3 per cent stake worth £44.5billion.
Now 85, he founded Zara with his ex-wife Rosalia in 1975 in Spain’s north-western region of Galicia, where it is still based.
It has grown into an empire with annual sales worth £17.5billion across eight brands including Massimo Dutti, Pull&Bear and Stradivarius. In the UK, it has more than 100 shops including 66 Zara stores.
Ortega Perez, a keen equestrian who has a degree in business management and speaks five languages, takes just weeks after it announced bumper quarterly results – storming ahead of its arch-rival H&M.
Profits soared to £726million in the three months to July as online sales rose and shops remained open in key markets. It may just £940million across the whole of last year as Covid took its toll.
Ortega Perez married fellow Inditex employee Carlos Torretta – son of fashion designer Roberto Torretta – in 2018.
Guests at the star-studded party at the Royal Yacht Club in La Coruna included Bruce Springsteen’s daughter Jessica and Spanish Master Chef’s Samantha Vallejo-Nagera.
Zara enjoys annual sales worth £17.5bn across eight brands including Massimo Dutti, Pull&Bear and Stradivarius. In the UK, it has more than 100 shops including 66 Zara stores
Ortega Perez has a son with her previous husband, Olympic showjumper Sergio Alvarez Moya, who she married in 2012.
Inditex shares fell in Madrid are up nearly 8 per cent this year.
Analyst Andrew Busby of Retail Reflections said: ‘I think it is a sound succession move and don’t expect any hiccups or bumps as a result.
‘She is a safe pair of hands and I think the brand will continue evolving, growing and being successful.
‘It is one of the few success stories we have on the High Street at the moment in terms of its offer, the way it manages stock and inventory. It’s probably the envy of many of its competitors. It is just a great seamless handover.’
But analysts at Spanish investment firm Alantra said: ‘We would have expected a more orderly and smoother transition, with Isla supervising in a non-executive role.’
And experts at Kepler warned that Ortega Perez and Maceiras ‘have a lot to prove when it comes to their ability to run this big monster in the middle of the Covid crisis’.
The daughter also rises
Ana Botin was appointed executive chairman of Santander in 2014 – succeeding her father Emilio
Marta Ortega Perez is not the only Spanish businesswoman to rise to the top of her father’s company in recent years.
Banker Ana Botin (pictured) was appointed executive chairman of lender Santander in 2014 – succeeding her father Emilio after he died.
Emilio Botin had in turn taken over from his own father, Emilio, in 1986.
Leaders passing the baton to family members is not uncommon. In the UK, retail tycoon Mike Ashley is set to hand over to his future son-in-law.
Frasers Group, which includes Sports Direct, House of Fraser and Evans Cycles, will be taken over in May by Michael Murray, his daughter Anna’s fiance.
Independent shareholders have put a black mark against Murray before he even starts as he is in line for a £100million bonus if shares hit a certain price. Murray, 31, will be one of the youngest bosses in the FTSE 250.
Inditex rival H&M is also family-run, having been founded in 1947 by Erling Persson before his son Stefan joined in 1972 and succeeded him in 1998.
Billionaire Stefan, now 74, spent more than 20 years as chairman until his son Karl-Johan, who was chief executive between 2009 and 2020, took over.
Chief executive and chairman of luxury goods maker LVMH Bernard Arnault, 72, owns the biggest stake in the company and a voting majority.
Four of his five children are involved with the group, and daughter Delphine, 46, has been tipped as his successor.
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