Amazon’s founder CEO Jeff Bezos may have ended Microsoft badshah Bill Gates’ long reign since 1995 as the world’s richest individual — a position interrupted only briefly by the likes of Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.
A 1% bump in the shares of Amazon on Thursday morning pushed the personal wealth of Bezos, who owns about 17% of the company, to over $91 billion, overtaking Gates’ approximately $90 billion, give or take a few million. Gates has generally been regarded as the wealthiest individual on the planet except when Slim bumped him from the top spot in 2012 and his friend and bridge partner Buffett topped him a few years earlier in 2008. Gates regained the top position on both occasions within a year. Because their wealth is largely a result of the shares they own in their company and its fluctuating price, it is possible that the wealthiest title may go back and forth between Gates and Bezos — both from Seattle — for a while. But Bezos is considered a good bet to hold the title in the long run given Amazon’s phenomenal run and seemingly endless business interests and revenue stream.
In the past week alone, Bezos’ net worth has increased by almost $3 billion due to a 3% gain in Amazon’s stock price; it has increased $16.5 billion since Forbes’ 2017 Billionaires List was published in March, when he was ranked third behind Gates and Buffett. Amazon’s m-cap is now over $500 billion, just $72 billion shy of Microsoft’s $575 billion, and the internet giant’s bull run not only positions it to overtake the software giant, but also — according to some market experts — puts it on track to become the world’s first trillion-dollar company. Bezos is also an early investor in Google, and holds interest in Airbnb, Uber, and Twitter among other unicorn companies.
Ironically, Amazon’s hot streak has coincided with the election as President of Donald Trump, who is not favourably disposed towards Bezos or Amazon despite his pro-business credentials. The company has seen a 40% increase in revenue this year alone, adding billions to the wealth of Bezos, who also happens to own The Washington Post, which has been sharply critical of the President. Trump recently described the paper as Amazon Washington Post, although Bezos bought it in his individual capacity and it is not an Amazon property.
Like Gates, Bezos’ rise began with a garage start up in 1994, when he began selling books online after leaving a hedge fund job. He first hit the Forbes rich list in 1998 — a year after Amazon went public — with a $1.6 billion fortune, when Gates was already worth more than $40 billion. But unlike Gates, who has begun divesting himself of wealth by giving away huge sums to philanthropic causes and fighting the world’s problems, Bezos is still racking it up, and has been criticized in some quarters for not giving sufficiently.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) named him the world’s worst boss in May 2014, and an insider expose said Amazon was “a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard”—a description Bezos took exception to and challenged.
Washington Post journalists and writers say he has given them a free hand in reporting on the Trump administration, and in recent weeks the paper has lit into the President editorially, causing him to erupt on Twitter.