The daughter of the founder of the Spanish retail giant Inditex, which owns the high street chains Zara, Bershka and Massimo Dutti, has been named as the company’s next chair in the culmination of a “generational handover process”.
Marta Ortega, 37, the daughter of Amancio Ortega, 85, the majority shareholder of the world’s largest fashion retailer and Spain’s richest man with an estimated £53bn fortune, will be installed as head of the board from 1 April.
Ortega, who has worked at the company for 15 years starting out as a shop assistant at a Bershka shop on London’s Kings Road, said: “I have always said 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.
“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.
The surprise stock exchange announcement was intended to clear up uncertainty surrounding the company’s succession plan, but some analysts said her elevation was premature. Shares in the company dropped 6% on the news.
Ortega, who has most recently been in charge of Zara’s brand image and campaigns including Charlotte Gainsbourg by Zara, will replace Pablo Isla who was appointed chair in 2011 replacing Amancio Ortega himself.
Isla, who has been credited with leading Inditex’s global expansion into Spain’s largest company with a €88bn (£75bn) market value and almost 7,000 stores, said now was the right time to make the change as the company’s sales recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
“These changes that we are announcing today are very well thought out changes, which are part of a process within the company and we understand that now is the right time to address this new stage,” Isla said in a video news conference on Tuesday. “With the changes … we are confident that the company will continue to develop successfully.”
Inditex also announced that Oscar García Maceiras, currently Inditex’s general counsel and secretary of the board, will take over immediately as chief executive.
Many see Ortega as the natural choice to succeed her father, who founded the company with his ex-wife Rosalía Mera in Galicia in 1975 and is still widely referred to as the “the Boss” despite officially retiring in 2011. However, some analysts raised concerns that she may be taking the reins too soon.
“We think that the changes are bad news for Inditex,” the Spanish investment firm Alantra said. “We would have expected a more orderly and smoother transition period, with Isla supervising in a non-executive role.”
The broker Kepler said the reshuffle was “moderately negative”, saying it was a big change to make during the pandemic. “We believe that the timing is not the best,” the broker said. “We believe that both Marta Ortega and the chief executive, Oscar Maceiras, have a lot to prove when it comes to their ability to run this big monster in the middle of the Covid crisis.”
Marta Ortega has said she first fell in love with fashion as a teenager when she went behind the scenes at a Zara shoot with Kate Moss in Barcelona.
She was educated at a Swiss boarding school, from which she took weekend trips to compete in equestrian Grand Prix show-jumping events. Ortega, who still takes part in amateur competitions, recalled in an interview recently that her billionaire father only allowed her to compete in the events if she maintained high grades.
After studying business management in London, she got a shop assistant job at Bershka on Kings Road. “The first week, I thought I was not going to survive,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “But then you get kind of addicted to the store. Some people never want to leave. It’s the heart of the company.”