Rosalia Mera, Spain’s richest woman and co-founder of the international clothing giant Zara, has died at the age of 69.
Spanish media reported that Mera suffered a stroke while on vacation on the Mediterranean island of Menorca. She was transferred on Thursday from the hospital in Menorca to the private San Rafael Hospital in La Coruna, where she died at 8.30pm local time, according to newspaper reports.
Zara’s parent company, Inditex, said: “The group wishes to send its sincere condolences to [Mera’s] 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.”
Rosalia Mera Goyenechea was born on January 28, 1944, in La Coruna in Spain’s Galicia region. The self-made billionaire began her career as a seamstress at age 11, when she dropped out of school to work as a tailor in a clothing shop.
Mera married Amancio Ortega in 1966 and nine years later they opened the first Zara store in La Coruna. Zara expanded worldwide and over the years, Mera helped build the company into one of the world’s biggest retailers. She and Ortego went on to found Inditex, which also owns the Massimo Dutti and Bershka brands.
Mera and Ortega separated in 1986. They have two children, Sandra and Marcos.
In 1986, Mera co-founded Paideia Galiza Foundation, based in her hometown, La Coruna. The organization helps people with physical and mental disabilities — like her son Marcos, who was born with a mental disability — to find jobs and it also provides training and education workshops. The foundation was not immediately available for comment.
According to Forbes, Mera’s net worth was $6.1 billion as of March 2013. Ortega, 77, remains Inditex’s majority shareholder. He is listed by Forbes as the fourth-richest man in the world with a net worth of $57 billion.