Zara founder Amancio Ortega overtook Bill Gates as the richest man in the world on Wednesday, after shares of his retail giant Inditex jumped 2.5% and boosted his fortune by $1.7 billion in a single day. But by Friday morning at 10 a.m., Inditex shares had dipped 2.8%, knocking Ortega’s net worth down to $77.8 billion. Gates was again the richest man on Earth, a title he has held for 17 of the last 22 years. Forty-five minutes later, Ortega was ahead. Then 10 minutes after that, Gates was back in the lead.
Easy come, easy go. Such is life at the top of the Forbes billionaires list, where tycoons can gain or lose hundreds of millions of dollars, even billions, in a matter of minutes. The fortunes of both Gates and Oretga will continue to fluctuate up and down as shares of their companies rise and fall.
For Ortega, the only stock that really matters is Inditex, the parent company to Zara, Massimo Dutti, Pull&Bear and other brands. A former store clerk who opened his first Zara store in 1975, Ortega holds roughly $70 billion of his $77.8 billion fortune (as of 11 a.m. Friday) in Inditex shares.
For Gates, no one stock can affect his fortune quite so dramatically. The Microsoft cofounder has been selling off shares of the software company for years and now holds an estimated $11 billion worth of Microsoft stock.
With the money he got from those sales, Gates purchased major shares of companies in old-line industries. He owns a stake in Canadian National Railway Co. worth more than $5 billion, a chunk of trash collector Republic Services worth more than $4 billion and a piece of tractor-maker Deere & Co. worth more than $2 billion. Altogether, Gates owns about $67 billion of investments outside of Microsoft. If his holdings change by just 1.5%, up or down, he stands to gain or lose more than $1 billion.