Bezos is modern history's richest man

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos (at left) with George W. Bush Presidential Centre chief executive Kenneth Hersh at a forum in Texas. Mr Bezos' net worth topped US$150 billion (S$205 billion) in New York on Monday.
Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos (left) with George W. Bush Presidential Centre chief executive Kenneth Hersh at a forum in Texas. Mr Bezos' net worth topped US$150 billion (S$205 billion) in New York on Monday.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos is the richest person in modern history.

His net worth cracked US$150 billion (S$205 billion) in New York on Monday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That is about US$55 billion more than Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, the world's second-richest person.

Mr Bezos, 54, has also topped Mr Gates in inflation-adjusted terms. The US$100 billion mark that Mr Gates had hit briefly in 1999 at the height of the dot.com boom would be worth about US$149 billion in today's dollars. That makes the Amazon chief executive richer than anyone else on earth since at least 1982, when Forbes published its inaugural wealth ranking.

Mr Bezos crossed the threshold as Amazon was preparing to kick off its Prime Day. The 36-hour sales event got off to a rocky start as glitches struck the firm's website and mobile app.

Shares of the company, which had climbed to a record US$1,841.95 earlier on Monday, pared gains on the news, closing up 0.5 per cent at US$1,822.49.

Mr Bezos' stay above US$150 billion, however, may be short-lived. The stock slipped below US$1,800 in extended trading after Netflix posted disappointing results, rattling tech investors.

His net worth has soared by US$52 billion this year, which is more than the entire fortune of Alibaba Group Holding chairman Jack Ma, Asia's wealthiest person. It also puts Mr Bezos' personal fortune within spitting distance of the US$151.5 billion controlled by the Walton family, the world's richest dynasty.

"It's hard to even put it in perspective," said Mr Michael Cole, CEO of Cresset Family Office. "It's such a staggering number."

A Federal Reserve report found the top 1 per cent of United States families controlled 38.6 per cent of wealth in the country in 2016, compared with 22.8 per cent held by the bottom 90 per cent.

Last year, Oxfam International found that more than 80 per cent of earnings went to the top 1 per cent of the world population.

Behind Mr Bezos on the Bloomberg index is Mr Gates, with a US$95.3 billion fortune.

Mr Gates would have had a net worth of more than US$150 billion if he had held on to assets that he has given away.

He has donated almost 700 million Microsoft shares and US$2.9 billion of cash and other assets since 1996, according to an analysis of his publicly disclosed giving.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2018, with the headline 'Bezos is modern history's richest man'. Print Edition | Subscribe