Living in the Sierra Nevadas, the hills of Southern Spain, or in fabulous Barcelona in the north, what would you do with $64 billion dollars? Or even $1 billion? Would you buy a luxurious condo in fashionable Madrid? Build a replica of the Alhambra in the Alpujarras? It would be fun to be a fly on the wall of Spain’s top ten wealthiest, to note whether it’s all work and no play, or whether money does, indeed, buy time – and extra-long siestas.
Spain is a country with a fascinating history: there’s the Moorish influence in the South and the Basque culture of the North, land ties to Portugal and France, and only the narrow Strait of Gibraltar to be crossed to reach Northern Africa. The top ten wealthiest of Spain comprise people in a variety of circumstances, from old, inherited money (and a title) to pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps wealth. The wealthiest person in Spain is actually of the latter variety, and recently made it onto Forbes top three wealthiest in the world for the first time. His company – today worth more than all nine others on our list put togethe – began in his living room. Inspiring stuff.
With the Spanish language one of the most widely-spoken in the world, the ten business magnates on our list have truly gone international to convert their millions into billions. How hard does a person work to get so far so fast? To amass tens of billions of dollars in just a half a century? Does it cost them their marriage or the love of their children? The children not only inherit, but often end up working alongside their industrious parents. Is this type of work ethic born or taught? And how can you get a piece? Just ask the following ten magnates from Spain: “¿Cómo lo hiciste?” In other words, “How did you do it?” We’ve collected information on the 10 richest people in Spain, from all walks of life. Read on to find out who is, according to the latest figures released in October 2013, the richest individual in Spain – and how he did it.
10. Herráiz Mahou and Gervás Families: $2.9 Billion
Tourists often confuse the words “cerveza” (beer) and “servicio” (bathroom), but you can be sure the Mahou-San Miguel group – comprised of the Herráiz Mahou and Gervás – families knows the difference. After swilling ale from the most internationally recognized Spanish brewery, you might need the servicio, especially if you’re sipping your brew while watching a nail-biting fight featuring one of the Gervás bulls…olé!
9. Juan and Carlos March & family: $3 Billion
The Alba Corporation, run by the March brothers – ages 73 and 68 respectively – is one of several companies owned by this enterprising family. The Alba Corporation includes the financial institution Banca March, a large amount of real estate and one of the largest artistic collections in the country. Banca March is known to be the most solvent financial institution in Spain, a testament to the savvy of the March brothers who in 2013 greatly grew the family business despite the fact that the Global Financial Crisis hit the country hard.
8. Cayetana Fitz James Stuart: Duquesa de Alba: $4.1 Billion
The 87-year-old Duchess of Alba, the Head of the House of Alba, was born into untold wealth. Born at a palace to the 17th Duke of Alba, she holds over 40 noble titles. As one of the most eccentric, sensational of Spain’s nobility, the Duchess married three times – most recently to a civil servant 24 years younger than her in 2011, a marriage to which her children adamantly objected. To facilitate the marriage, the Duchess in fact gave up her wealth, surrendering the inheritance to her children. So, although she still features among Spain’s richest, the wealth is currently – in fact – divided among the Duchess of Alba’s six children.
7. Juan-Miguel Villar Mir: $5 Billion
A former finance minister, 82-year-old Juan-Miguel controls the publicly-traded OHL along with his children. OHL is a huge Spanish construction firm, which is only one aspect of Villar Mir’s empire. This was the firm chosen to build the high-speed railway in Saudi Arabia, which travels between Mecca and Medina. OHL also builds airports, toll roads and residential developments on all continents. Villar Mir has his hand in hydroelectric power too, as well as fertilizer, concrete, real estate, transport and distribution. From production of silicon metal to transportation and distribution, and even the rail line to get it there…. Entrepreneurship at its best.
6. Isak Andic & family: $5.2 Billion
This self-made fashion mogul owns Mango, the popular women’s retail-clothing store first opened in Barcelona in 1984. Mango now has 2600 stores in 109 countries, according to Forbes. At age 60, Andic doesn’t live the flashy lifestyle you might expect of a fashion industry billionaire. A family man, he stays relatively low-key in the media and limits his company’s stock-market exposure. Andic now controls 3.5% of the capital in Banco Sabadell, is an art collector and a well-known patron of the arts. Mr. Andic, you’re doing it right.
5. Manuel Jove: $5.3 Billion
This savvy 72-year-old carpenter knows when to get in and when to get out, one of the most important traits for an entrepreneur. In 1980 Jove began his own realty firm, Fadesa Inmobiliaria. After taking the company public in 2004, he sold it in 2006 – shortly before the disastrous financial crash which resulted in a nosedive in the Spanish real estate industry. Similarly, he sold enough of his shares in BBVA (Spain’s largest investment bank) to reduce from 5.1% to 2.99% before the bank began experiencing significant losses in operations. Jove continues his investment practices while collecting art and enjoying woodworking.
4. Rafael del Pino Calvo-Sotelo – $7.2 billion
With an MBA from M.I.T., this 55-year-young billionaire inherited both his position and his wealth from his father. When Rafael’s father passed away in 2008, he and his siblings – Maria, Joaquin, Leopoldo and Fernando – inherited the family wealth. The five acquired the family business Ferrovial, Spain’s largest construction and management company. Previous to his father’s death, Rafael’s father had already appointed him Executive Chairman of the company. This is one of Spain’s most traditional business families, beginning as a rail road construction company in 1952. Since then the business has diversified and grown, as has the family: Rafael, one of five children, has had five of his own. Business has been good for the family; this is Calvo-Sotelo’s first time on Forbes’ Billionaire list.
3. Sandra Ortega Mera: $7.3 Billion
The richest woman in Spain and scion of the Mera family – those of the Zara fashion empire – Sandra Ortega Mera gained the bulk of her fortune upon the death of her mother, Rosalia Mera, last August. At age 45, Mera is the youngest of the billionaires on our list and the youngest female billionaire in Europe, as well as holding the title of the wealthiest woman in all of Spain. You might not guess that this trendy looking, low-key woman with the bright red, edgy short hair is the woman behind an empire and a member of the Spanish bourgeoisie.
2. Juan Roig: $7.9 Billion
An avid basketball fan, this 64-year-old is reported to attend pro games in Valencia twice a week. Roig’s fortune is as majority shareholder in Mercadona, Spain’s largest grocery retailer. With the financial crisis Spain has been experiencing, Mercadona slashed prices by 14% last year. This was less an altruistic move and more of a smart marketing strategy: The company shares grew by almost one billion dollars during the same period.
1. Amancio Ortega: $64 Billion
A family man who prefers to stay out of the limelight, in 2013 this self-made billionaire made it into the top three of the world’s wealthiest. Amancio Ortega is the man behind the Zara brand. Ortega, age 77, founded and owns 60% of the shares in Inditex, the company that owns the successful Zara clothing chain. Other clothing chains included in Inditex’s remit are Bershka and Pull and Bear. Ortega has a finger in the real-estate pie too, with buildings in Madrid, London, San Francisco, Chicago and New York – and Google is Ortega’s tenant in the renowned Torre Picasso of Madrid’s financial district. Ortega retired from Inditex in 2011 and has always maintained a distance from the media but his rags to riches story – combined with his reserved nature – has inspired much speculation and even a couple of books.
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