It's an odd competition when you think about it, but for most of this summer, Jeff Bezos has been nipping at the heels of Bill Gates when it comes to the title of richest person in the world. In fact, Bezos took the lead briefly last month.

But then Amazon's stock price dropped, and he fell off the list. And then Gates gave $4.6 billion to charity.

And suddenly this week, an incredibly successful European entrepreneur whose name most Americans don't even know crept into the top spot--at least according to one popular ranking.

As of Wednesday morning, Amancio Ortega, the cofounder of Spain's Inditex, a retailer that owns brands like Zara, took the number-1 spot, with a net worth $85 billion. That put him just ahead of Gates at $84.9 billion and Bezos at $82.5 billion. (This is all according to Forbes, by the way.)

Rounding out the top 5 richest people: Warren Buffett at $77.7 billion (it's his 87th birthday today by the way), and Mark Zuckerberg, on whose platform you might well be reading this article, at a mere $70.7 billion.

There's also a theory that the richest person in the world is actually Vladimir Putin, but I'll leave that aside for now.

By the way, Ortega isn't as well known here because of his country of origin, I suppose, but it's also because he's been very reluctant to give interviews over the years.

This is actually Ortega's fourth time atop the list as the world's wealthiest person, but his tenure has always been brief--a few days in 2015 and 2016, and then a few hours earlier this week. His lead is slender, of course, and once again might not last the day depending on stock market fluctuations.

But it's a small club, with only six people ever having topped the list since it was first compiled. I wrote about Ortega recently, recounting the boyhood experience that led him to start his first company.

According to a biography, [Ortega] grew up very poor in postwar Spain. His drive to succeed came when he was about 14, after his mother was turned away from a shop while trying to buy food, because the family no longer had credit.

"The consequence of that slap on the face he suffered when still he was a very young boy has been the creation of one of the most important Spanish enterprises... with a global presence in most of the world," biographer Covadonga O'Shea said.

From a slap in the fact to richest man in the world. Even if winds up being only for a few hours, it's a heck of a journey.

Published on: Aug 30, 2017
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