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Jeff Bezos has made the biggest fortune in the history of business

Sohini Mitter
10th Jan 2018
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The Amazon founder surpassed Bill Gates as the richest man last year, and now owns more wealth than the latter ever did.

Jeff Bezos surpassed Bill Gates to become the richest man in the world for the first time in July 2017. But his stay at the top was brief — seven hours only — as a 77 percent decline in Amazon’s Q2 profits sent its stock plunging, thereby eroding Bezos’s wealth by about $4 billion.

From a peak fortune of $90.6 billion, Bezos fell to $86.9 billion, according to Forbes. In the week that followed, Bezos fell further as Amancio Ortega, the founder of Spanish fashion retailer Zara, grabbed the second spot.

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Now, half a year, and several billion dollars later, Bezos is the richest man the world has ever had. He not only leads the billionaires' pack, but also owns more wealth than Bill Gates ever did. According to the latest Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Bezos is now worth $105.1 billion riding on Amazon’s superhit festival season sales. His networth increased by $1.4 billion in a single day as Amazon stocks — 79 million of which are owned by Bezos — rose 1.4 percent on NYSE.

Bezos also owns media company The Washington Post, which he acquired in 2013, and Blue Origin, a private space travel firm. But the lion’s share of his wealth comes from the Amazon retail empire. Amazon shares are already up seven percent this year, after climbing 56 percent in 2017.

Bezos crossed the $100-billion mark for the first time in November just ahead of the holiday season in the US. Blockbuster sales in the next few weeks, including Cyber Monday 2017 that was touted as the biggest shopping day in history, sent Amazon’s stock soaring. Amazon accounted for 89 percent of online holiday sales in the US, and Bezos’s wealth crossed $105 billion.

Bill Gates could have been wealthier

Microsoft’s Gates is worth $93.3 billion on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. This is the biggest lead Bezos has had over him. But Gates actually makes a bigger fortune than Bezos. If not for his charitable contributions (made through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), he would be richer than Bezos.

Bloomberg estimates that Gates has given away close to 700 million shares of Microsoft, worth $61.8 billion today, as well as $2.9 billion in cash to charity since 1996. Had he not, his fortune would have crossed $150 billion.

But Bezos continues his bull run, having made more than $6 billion in just a week of trading in 2018. Bezos holds more than 17 percent of Amazon stock. Hence, even minor fluctuations (1 percent) in his company’s stock price can erode his wealth by a few billion dollars.

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