Bezos is the richest of all time, except for that other feller
Amazon founder officially overtakes Bill Gates - but is he really the richest person to have lived?
For a brief few hours a year ago, Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos got his first taste of what it was like to be the richest man alive.
Before the announcement of Amazon’s quarterly results, a spike in the company’s share price allowed Bezos to temporarily leapfrog Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who at the time was worth $89.7-billion.
It took until this year to pass him more permanently. This week, and $60-billion later, Bezos’s fortune has broken a new record.
The Amazon founder was officially proclaimed the richest person in recent history this week as his fortune hit $150-billion after a share price jump on Amazon’s Prime Day, the annual event when the retailer cuts prices on a range of products to boost sales.On Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index he overtook Gates’s 1999 fortune when adjusted for inflation. At the peak of the dotcom boom, Gates was worth $100-billion ($149-billion in today’s money), a level that Bezos has only just surpassed.
The 54-year-old Bezos owns a stake of more than 16% in e-commerce giant Amazon, which he founded as a book store in a garage in Seattle in 1994.
The Amazon shareholding represents the bulk of his fortune but Bezos’s portfolio and business interests are more wide ranging. They have included shares in Uber, Airbnb, financial news website Business Insider and healthcare business Zocdoc, according to Crunchbase.He is also the owner of The Washington Post, the newspaper he bought in 2013, and he founded space flight company Blue Origin in 2000. He also bought an early stake in Google worth $250,000 in 1998.
Rockefeller of ages
Although richer than anyone else alive, Bezos still falls short of some historical figures if their fortunes are adjusted for inflation.
The vast riches of US oil magnate John D Rockefeller and Scottish-born US steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie would dwarf Bezos, according to some estimates. Bezos, like Rockefeller, did not come from a wealthy family. His working life started at McDonald’s, where he was employed as a teenager in Albuquerque in the 1970s.
Bezos said: “You can learn responsibility in any job, if you take it seriously. You can learn a lot as a teenager working at McDonald’s. It’s different from what you learn in school. Don’t underestimate the value of that!”Bezos was working at DE Shaw when he came up with the idea for Amazon, writing a business plan with which he raised $300,000.“The original Amazon plan was focused on books, and I expected the company to grow slowly over a large number of years,” Bezos told The Daily Telegraph in 2015. “But it actually grew very quickly right from the beginning. These are very humble roots, I can assure you. I drove the packages to the post office in my Chevy Blazer.”
When he founded Amazon it was set up to focus on selling books on the Internet. The company was initially called Cadabra, but was changed a year later after a lawyer misheard its original name as Cadaver.
It quickly entered into new growth areas, selling CDs and DVDs from 1995. Two years after that it added toys and electronics to the list. Within 10 years of the launch, Amazon started selling food online. In 15 years, it had started making its own TV programmes.Despite Amazon’s success, Bezos has famously abided by three start-up principles: the two-pizza rule, which means that no meeting should ever have more people in it than could eat two pizzas; no bullet points, meaning all PowerPoint presentations are banned; and to avoid the obsession over profit, since he felt that building scale in the business is more important than shareholder returns.Amazon did not make a full-year profit until 2004, a full decade after its launch. This lack of profitability was an ongoing concern to investors, who were faced with the company regularly posting quarterly losses. After all, Bezos does not focus on money. “Wall Street ... is not one thing,” he said. “The investment community is made up of thousands and thousands of investors with different philosophies. As long as you’re clear about what you’re trying to build, and why, I think investors opt in. And the ones who don’t like that approach opt out.”
Bezos, like many of his predecessors to the title of wealthiest man alive, has decided to turn to philanthropy. On Twitter last month, he shared a message thanking followers for their philanthropic ideas, which he called “thoughtful, helpful and appreciated”.His side business, Bezos Expeditions, has launched many wildly differing projects. He is building a 10,000-year clock inside a mountain in west Texas, which is designed to be “a symbol, an icon for long-term thinking” and will tick once a year.
Bezos also gathered a team to recover the F-1 rocket engines used for the Apollo 11 launch from the seabed. And he is investing in technology to find better non-carbon energy sources through Breakthrough Energy.
- © The Daily Telegraph