These are the 8 richest people in Europe
Europe is home to many of the most powerful and economically developed countries in the world, as well as more than 740 million people.
But only eight of the 50 richest people in the world come from the continent — and half of them inherited their fortunes. The others, including second-richest person on earth Amancio Ortega, forged their fortunes in fashion and furniture.
This comes from new data provided to us by Wealth-X, a company that conducts research on the super-wealthy, featured in our recent ranking of the world’s richest people. Wealth-X maintains a database of dossiers on more than 110,000 ultra-high-net-worth people, using a proprietary valuation model to discern the size of their fortunes.
Read on to learn more about the richest people in Europe, including a man who has a near-monopoly on eyewear and the founder of the world’s largest furniture maker.
1. Amancio Ortega
Net worth: $66.8 billion
Source of wealth: Self-made; Inditex
With a net worth in excess of $66 billion, Amancio Ortega is the second-richest man in the world thanks to his control of the Spanish fashion behemoth Inditex, which Ortega — who started out as a delivery boy for a local clothing store at 14 — turned from a small-town dress shop into one of the largest fashion empires on the planet.
His rising wealth is tied to the spike in the growth of Inditex, which saw its stock rise 34% last year. Sales were up 16% and profits increased 20% for the first nine months of 2015, and the company opened 230 new stores across 48 markets. Much of this success can be attributed to fast-fashion giant Zara, the company’s biggest brand. The chain is changing the landscape of retail as its chic yet affordable designs continue to appeal to demanding customers who constantly crave new styles at low prices.
Yet despite Ortega’s immense wealth, he lives humbly. The billionaire still eats lunch with his employees in the company cafeteria, and though he’s the richest person in the fashion industry, he sticks to a simple uniform of a white shirt and blue blazer.
2. Ingvar Kamprad
Net worth: $39.3 billion
Source of wealth: Self-made; IKEA
At 17, Ingvar Kamprad founded IKEA, now the world’s largest furniture retailer with sales exceeding $33 billion. Kamprad’s plan from the beginning was to set up “eternal life” for IKEA, which meant keeping it off the stock market and securing it within a complex corporate structure that includes a charitable arm and a retail and franchise arm, collectively known as Stichting INGKA Foundation. While the Swedish business magnate is no longer directly involved in day-to-day decision-making operations, he still sits in on meetings as senior adviser to the supervisory board.
Among his peers, the 89-year-old founder is incredibly frugal despite his massive net worth. He reportedly flies economy, stays in cheap hotels, and has driven the same Volvo for more than two decades. He also infamously moved IKEA and his family out of Sweden in the 1970s to avoid its onerous tax rates. He returned to live in his home country in 2013 after a long spell in Switzerland.
But Kamprad has also been generous with his wealth, donating to child rights, immunization, environment and wildlife, education, and medical research, with personal lifetime giving of $300 million.
3. Liliane Battencourt
Net worth: $29 billion
Source of wealth: Inheritance/self-made; L’Oreal Group
The heiress to the L’Oreal cosmetics fortune and the company’s largest shareholder, Liliane Bettencourt is the richest woman in Europe and the second-richest woman in the world, with a net worth of $29 billion. She no longer has a hand in business operations, but L’Oreal and the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation she cofounded with her late husband continue to prosper. She’s an avid art collector, owning pieces by Picasso, Matisse, and Munch.
In recent years, Bettencourt became a household name in France as the central figure in aninfamous trial in which judges examined whether the billionaire was taken advantage of by those close to her. The trial closed in May 2015 when eight people, including trusted friends and financial advisers, were convicted of exploiting the heiress.
Bettencourt was back in the news again late last year after accusations were made against her former butler and five journalists for recording meetings with the billionaire and thus violating her right to privacy. The butler, Pascal Bonnefoy, claimed that he made the recordings to show Bettencourt’s fragile state — all six were acquitted in early January.
4. Bernard Arnault
Net worth: $28.9 billion
Industry: Luxury goods
Source of wealth: Inheritance/self-made; LVMH
Bernard Arnault’s LVMH houses 70 luxury brands from Louis Vuitton to Hennessy to Dom Perignon, all controlled by family parent company Groupe Arnault. By the 1980s and ’90s, Arnault, who started out as a civil engineer, had assumed control of the family business and proceeded to buy high-end fashion house Christian Dior, reviving it from the brink of bankruptcy. Like most LVMH brands today, Dior once again thrives as an industry standard bearer, helping the firm haul in a record $33 billion in revenue in 2014.
This year, the French chairman and CEO is joining US-based private-equity firm Catterton to form an investment firm with a consumer focus. The new firm, to be named L Catterton, is targeting $12 billion in assets under management and will be 40% owned by LVMH and Groupe Arnault.
5. Stefan Persson
Net worth: $26.7 billion
Source of wealth: Self-made; H&M
Stefan Persson was born in 1947, the same year his father founded a women’s clothing store called Hennes. The Swedish entrepreneur expanded his business in 1968 when he acquired men’s clothing store Mauritz Widforss, forming Hennes & Mauritz — H&M. Six years later the company went public, and in 1976, after earning degrees from the University of Stockholm and Lund University, Stefan joined his father at the helm. He served as head of UK operations and shortly after succeeded his father as CEO.
Over the past three decades, H&M has expanded its operations globally, now boasting nearly 4,000 stores in places like Hong Kong, China, Tokyo, Japan, Russia, and the US. In 2009, Stefan stepped down as CEO and the third generation — his son, Karl-Johan — took over the company, which had sales of $22.4 billion in 2014.
6. Georg Schaeffler
Net worth: $22.2 billion
Source of wealth: Inheritance/self-made; Schaeffler Group
Georg Schaeffler served in the German military and held a short career in corporate law in the US before jumping aboard his father’s company, Schaeffler Group, the nearly $11 billion (in sales) ball bearings and auto-parts maker that Schaeffler now co-owns with his mother.
The company made a splash in 2008 with its $17 billion hostile takeover attempt of tire and auto-parts maker Continental AG, which went south and left Schaeffler Group saddled with debt that it’s managing to this day. It still owns a nearly 50% stake in Continental.
Schaeffler Group has recently invested nearly $550 million in its electric and hybrid car parts business, and it expects to double the number in the next five years.
7. Dieter Schwarz
Net worth: $20.9 billion
Source of wealth: Inheritance/self-made; Schwarz Gruppe
Dieter Schwarz joined his father’s food-wholesaling business in 1973 and opened the company’s first discount supermarket shortly thereafter. He took over as CEO when his father died in 1977 and rapidly expanded the business outside Germany, rebranding the company as Schwarz Gruppe.
The parent company umbrellas Lidl, a successful grocery-store chain and the second largest in Germany behind Aldi, and Kaufland, a chain of “hypermarket” stores similar to Walmart. Lidl has nearly 10,000 stores across 26 European countries and is set to break ground on US soil in 2018. Schwarz Gruppe now pulls in $85 billion in annual sales.
The German billionaire lives a quiet life out of the spotlight with his wife and two kids in their hometown of Heilbronn. He’s reportedly a generous donor to educational causes.
8. Leonardo Del Vecchio
Net worth: $19.7 billion
Source of wealth: Self-made; Luxottica Group
Even at 80, Leonardo Del Vecchio still chairs Luxottica, the nearly $30 billion company he founded in 1961. The largest eyewear company on the planet, Luxottica not only owns Sunglass Hut, Ray-Ban, and Oakley, but manufacturers glasses for nearly every luxury brand out there,including Burberry, Chanel, Prada, and Versace.
Though Del Vecchio started Luxottica as a tiny one-room enterprise in Milan, it now operates 10 factories worldwide, employs 35,000 people, and produces more than 65,000 pairs of glasses per day, holding a veritable monopoly on the eyewear industry.
Del Vecchio isn’t all business, though. Last March, he showed his generous side by giving his Italian employees $10 million worth of shares in the company to celebrate his 80th birthday.