Spain's richest woman and Zara co-founder dies aged 69

MADRID (AFP) - The co-founder of global fashion brand Zara and the richest woman in Spain, Rosalia Mera, has died at the age of 69 after suffering a stroke while on holiday in the Balearic island of Menorca.

Ms Mera was transferred to the private San Rafael hospital in Coruna, northern Spain, where she died on Thursday evening, a hospital source said. She had been on holiday in Menorca with her daughter Sandra.

Listed by Forbes this year as the world's 195th richest billionaire with a fortune of US$6.1 billion (S$7.76 billion), the highest-placed among Spanish women, she was also described as the richest self-made woman in the world.

Ms Mera dropped out of school at 11 and started work as a seamstress at 13 before going on to found the Inditex textile giant alongside her husband Amancio Ortega, whom she later divorced. Mr Ortega is listed by Forbes as the world's third-richest man with US$57 billion.

Inditex released a statement expressing the group's sadness over Ms Mera's death.

"The group wishes to send its sincere condolences to her loved ones and friends at this extremely difficult time, after the loss of a person who contributed so much to the origins and development of the company," it said.

Besides Zara, the Inditex group owns a number of successful international brands including Massimo Dutti and Pull and Bear.

Ms Mera had left the Inditex board in 2004 but kept a 5.05 per cent stake in the firm, according to conservative Spanish daily ABC. She also held 30.6 per cent of hotel chain Room Mate, it said.

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