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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 17 August 2018

Topping $150bn, Bezos is world's richest person in decades

Amazon chief executive wealthier than anyone else on earth since at least 1982

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. He is now the richest person in at least 36 years. Getty
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. He is now the richest person in at least 36 years. Getty

The Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ net worth cracked $150 billion in New York on Monday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

That’s about $55bn more than Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, the world’s second-richest person.

Mr Bezos, 54, also has topped Mr Gates in inflation-adjusted terms. The $100bn mark Mr Gates hit briefly in 1999 at the height of the dot-com boom would be worth about $149bn 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.

But, according to Time magazine, Andrew Carnegie may have been the richest American of all time. The Scottish immigrant sold his company, US Steel, to JP Moregan for $480 million in 1901. That sum equates to about slightly over 2.1 per cent of US GDP at the time, giving Carnegie economic power equivalent to $372bn in 2014.

Mr Bezos crossed the $150bn threshold as Amazon was preparing to kick off its 36-hour summer sales event, Prime Day, which got off to a rocky start as glitches struck the firm’s website and mobile app.

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Shares of the company, which had climbed to a record $1,841.95 earlier Monday, pared gains on the news, closing up 0.5 per cent at $1,822.49. Mr Bezos’ stay above $150bn may be short-lived. The stock slipped below $1,800 in extended trading after Netflix posted disappointing results, rattling tech investors.

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

“It’s hard to even put it in perspective,” said Michael Cole, CEO of Cresset Family Office. “It’s such a staggering number.”

A Federal Reserve report found the top 1 per cent of US families controlled 38.6 per cent of wealth in the US 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 $95.3bn fortune. Mr Gates would have had a net worth of more than $150bn if he’d held on to assets that he’s given away, largely to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He’s donated almost 700 million Microsoft shares and $2.9bn of cash and other assets since 1996, according to an analysis of his publicly disclosed giving.

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