The Phantom Billionaire Who’s Richer Than Warren Buffett

The Phantom Billionaire Who’s Richer Than Warren Buffett

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By Millie Dent

A practically unheard-of billionaire, Amancio Ortega, just blew past household name Warren Buffett to be the second-richest man in the world, according to Bloomberg. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who is worth $85.5 billion, remains first.

Oretega, who has amassed a net worth of $71.5 billion, is the founding chairman of the Inditex fashion group, the world’s largest apparel retailer. Inditex is best known for its chain of Zara clothing and accessories shops, which had sales of $19.7 billion in fiscal 2014.

Related: Bill Gates Is the World’s Richest Man Again. Or Is He?

Worth noting is that Warren Buffett, whose net worth of $70.2 billion puts him at third place, would be in second-place if not for his philanthropic giving.

A native of Spain, Ortega refuses almost all interview requests and until 1999, no photograph of him had ever been published. However, Zara is not so low-profile. The world’s biggest fashion retailer operates over 6,600 stores in more than 88 countries.

Inditex has shown strong growth year over year. In March, it reported net profit up 5 percent from the previous fiscal year. In addition, the company said it planned to open up 480 more stores this year.

Related: America’s Highest Paid CEO Is Not Who You Think

Key to Ortega’s success has been keeping Zara’s manufacturing close to its home base in the ancient port city of La Coruña, rather than outsourcing production to China to cut costs. This allows Zara to act quickly on new trends and put new products into stories right away. Zara shops receive new shipments of clothing twice a week, virtually unheard of among retail stores.

If Inditex brands continue to grow and Zara’s popularity extends to millennials and beyond, the mysterious billionaire’s wealth could eventually push him to number one on the list.

Chart of the Day: Shutdown Hits Like a Hurricane

An aerial view shows a neighborhood that was flooded after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina
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By Michael Rainey

The partial government shutdown has hit the economy like a hurricane – and not just metaphorically. Analysts at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said Tuesday that the shutdown has now cost the economy about $26 billion, close to the average cost of $27 billion per hurricane calculated by the Congressional Budget Office for storms striking the U.S. between 2000 and 2015. From an economic point of view, it’s basically “a self-imposed natural disaster,” CRFB said. 

Chart of the Week: Lowering Medicare Drug Prices

A growing number of patients are being denied access to newer oral chemotherapy drugs for cancer pills with annual price tags of more than $75,000.
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By Michael Rainey

The U.S. could save billions of dollars a year if Medicare were empowered to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies, according to a paper published by JAMA Internal Medicine earlier this week. Researchers compared the prices of the top 50 oral drugs in Medicare Part D to the prices for the same drugs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which negotiates its own prices and uses a national formulary. They found that Medicare’s total spending was much higher than it would have been with VA pricing.

In 2016, for example, Medicare Part D spent $32.5 billion on the top 50 drugs but would have spent $18 billion if VA prices were in effect – or roughly 45 percent less. And the savings would likely be larger still, Axios’s Bob Herman said, since the study did not consider high-cost injectable drugs such as insulin.  

Why Craft Brewers Are Crying in Their Beer

		<p>The $85 billion in spending cuts is just $10 million more than what Americans spent on beer in 2011.</p>
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By Michael Rainey

It may be small beer compared to the problems faced by unemployed federal workers and the growing cost for the overall economy, but the ongoing government shutdown is putting a serious crimp in the craft brewing industry. Small-batch brewers tend to produce new products on a regular basis, The Wall Street Journal’s Ruth Simon says, but each new formulation and product label needs to be approved by the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which is currently closed. So it looks like you’ll have to wait a while to try the new version of Hemperor HPA from Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing, a hoppy brew that will include hemp seeds once the shutdown is over.

Number of the Day: $30 Billion

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By The Fiscal Times Staff

The amount spent on medical marketing reached $30 billion in 2016, up from $18 billion in 1997, according to a new analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and highlighted by the Associated Press. The number of advertisements for prescription drugs appearing on television, newspapers, websites and elsewhere totaled 5 million in one year, accounting for $6 billion in marketing spending. Direct-to-consumer marketing grew the fastest, rising from $2 billion, or 12 percent of total marketing, to nearly $10 billion, or a third of spending. “Marketing drives more treatments, more testing” that patients don’t always need, Dr. Steven Woloshin, a Dartmouth College health policy expert and co-author of the study, told the AP.