Separation, Inditex-style

Zara clothing heiress Marta Ortega splits up with her showjumper husband

Marta Ortega and Sergio Álvarez photographed on December 13.
Marta Ortega and Sergio Álvarez photographed on December 13.EFE

It had been an open secret for several months that the marriage of Inditex clothing empire heiress Marta Ortega to Spanish showjumper Sergio Álvarez was on the rocks.

Finally, in the closing days of the year, news media in Galicia, the northwestern region where the couple lived, published the story that after less than three years of matrimony that had produced a now 18-month-old baby, the couple were separating.

The Ortega family, headed by Spain’s wealthiest man, Amancio Ortega, the founder of high street clothing outlets such as Zara, has always guarded its privacy zealously, and at first made no official statement. But Inditex eventually confirmed via a tweet that the news was true: “It has been an amicable separation. Things had been difficult for some time. They tried to overcome their problems but things haven’t worked out. They have separated, but we don’t know if they will go further.”

Little is known about Marta, other than that, like her father, she seems down to earth and avoids the media

Marta Ortega, who will be 31 on January 10, was married on February 18, 2012 at one of her father’s Galician estates, Pazo do Drozo, in a relatively low-key ceremony with 200 guests that included few family members, fewer representatives of the Inditex business empire, and plenty of friends of the bride and groom. Among the handful of celebrities was Athina Onassis, herself heiress to a global fortune, as well as Spanish soprano Ainhoa Arteta, both of whose partners are also professional showjumpers.

Ortega, who also rides, met Álvarez, considered one of the country’s top riders, at a showjumping competition.

Her father gave his seal of approval to the relationship, and Álvarez was welcomed into the family. Given Ortega’s obsession with privacy, little is known about his daughter, other than that, like her father, she seems down to earth and avoids the media.

Global fashion leader

Inditex is the world’s largest clothing retail group, with annual sales of €18 billion, 7 percent up on 2013, and giving it a net profit of around €2.5 billion, placing it significantly ahead of Sweden’s H&M and Japan’s Uniqlo.

Inditex consists of eight main retail chains: Zara, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho, Zara Home, and Uterqüe. As of December 31, the group operated 6,570 stores in 88 countries, with a major presence in Spain, China, and Russia.

Amancio Ortega controls 59.3 percent of Inditex, a stake estimated to be worth around €44 billion. He is ranked by Forbes magazine as the world"s fourth-richest person.

Amancio Ortega – who is worth around €46 billion, making him the fourth wealthiest person in the world, according to Forbes magazine – declared himself “happy” and “not at all nervous” ahead of the wedding. It was a rare public statement by a man who has made discretion a way of life. Marta is Ortega’s youngest daughter; he has an older daughter and son from a previous marriage, but is estranged from that side of the family.

After a honeymoon that included jaunts in Ortega’s private jet, the couple settled into their new home in a newly built mansion that they shared with Amancio Ortega and his wife in an upscale area of A Coruña, Galicia’s main city, and close to Inditex’s headquarters in the small town of Arteixo.

Marta Ortega works at Inditex, heading up the Zara woman line of clothes with a team of around 50 designers, buyers, and trend spotters under her management. She is expected to take over the reins of Inditex when her father, who will be 79 in March, retires. After finishing her education, she started out in the company folding shirts, and has also spent time working in its stores around the world. Over time, she has taken on a bigger role in the everyday running of the business.

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Her growing business responsibilities, coupled with those of raising a small child, have meant that she has been unable to dedicate as much time as before to riding, although she still visits Casas Novas, the spectacular stables her father built for her, and where each year she holds an international competition that attracts the top names in the riding world. But her husband has continued his profession, helped by his father-in-law, who bought him a mare for €12 million, named after Marta. It is believed that Álvarez’s commitment to his sport has contributed to the strains in the relationship.

The first visible signs that all might not be well in the marriage were noted in October, when local media published stories that Álvarez decided to move his horses from Casas Novas to his parents’ stables in the neighboring province of Asturias. Álvarez said the move was for practical reasons, and that he was preparing for a big competition. A number of photographs of the couple with their son attending show jumping competitions were released to the media.

Details about the financial aspects of the couple’s relationship are scarce, but sources close to the Ortega family say that Álvarez will have signed a prenuptial agreement.