Zara founder's daughter to lead parent company Inditex in surprise reshuffle

Ms Marta Ortega with her father Amancio Ortega, who is founder and chairman of Inditex fashion group. PHOTO: AFP

MADRID (REUTERS) - Ms Marta Ortega, daughter of the founder of Spanish fashion retailer Inditex, will replace chairman Pablo Isla, who led the company's global expansion for more than a decade, in a succession some analysts called rushed.

Ms Ortega, 37, takes over as chairman of the group that owns the Zara brand in April, together with a new chief executive, the last step in handing over to a new generation - a process that began a decade ago, the company said.

Shares in Spain's largest listed company, which fell as much as 5.3 per cent on the news, were down 5.1 per cent by midday.

Mr Isla told a video news conference it was the right time for the change, thanks to the company's solid position, with sales in the second quarter climbing above 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

"The company is very strong... Obviously, the model of the company will continue to be the same," he told the briefing accompanied by the incoming CEO Oscar Garcia Maceiras.

Mr Isla dismissed Tuesday's share fall as a short-term move.

He had taken over from Mr Amancio Ortega, now 85, as chairman in 2011 after six years as deputy chairman.

Under Mr Isla, Inditex's share price rose eight-fold and its market value skyrocketed to almost €93 billion (S$143 billion), while over the same period, shares of its main rival H&M climbed by about 50 per cent.

Most brokers said Ms Ortega was the natural successor to her father but said she was taking the lead faster than expected, along with a young CEO with little retail experience.

Mr Maceiras, who became general counsel and board secretary in March, takes over from Mr Carlos Crespo, who spent two years as CEO and will stay on as chief operating officer.

"We think that the changes are bad news for Inditex," Spanish investment firm Alantra said. "We would have expected a more orderly and smoother transition period, with Isla supervising in a non-executive role."

Brokerage Kepler said the reshuffle was "moderately negative", adding: "Both Marta Ortega and the CEO Oscar Maceiras have a lot to prove when it comes to their ability to run this big monster in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis."

Zara owner Inditex is Spain's largest listed company. PHOTO: AFP

But other analysts said Inditex, which fared well during the pandemic, was unlikely to see a shift in strategy under the changes and was relatively well-positioned to manage global supply chain issues.

"Given the orderly handover process and long-term strategy of the group, these changes are unlikely to provide any scope for a material change in strategic direction," Deutsche Bank analyst Adam Cochrane wrote.

Ms Ortega, known for her equestrian passion, has worked for the company for 15 years, starting as an assistant in one of the company's cheaper retail brands, Bershka. Mr Isla said she would continue to oversee Zara's image and fashion business.

Ms Ortega said in a statement: "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."

Her father, Mr Ortega, the world's 11th wealthiest man with US$77 billion (S$105 billion) according to Forbes, still owns 59.29 per cent of Inditex, while Ms Sandra Ortega, a daughter from his first marriage, is the second-largest shareholder with 5.05 per cent, Refinitiv data showed.

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