Amazon’s Jeff Bezos About to Be Planet Earth’s Richest Man

David Ryder/Getty Images
David Ryder/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos is less than $4 billion shy of passing Bill Gates as the richest man in the history of planet Earth.

According to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the Amazon CEO is the second-richest man in the world, with a net worth of $85.2 billion, just $3.9 billion less than Gates, Microsoft’s founder and largest shareholder.

The biggest difference between the two tech moguls is that Gates is 61 years old, gave up the CEO title at Microsoft three years ago, and has spent most of his time over the last nine years involved in philanthropic activities. Bezos is just 53 years old and is totally engrossed as the CEO running Amazon as if it was a start-up.

Nine years ago, Microsoft’s stock was trading at about $30, down 50 percent since its peak of about $60 in 1999. When Gates finally gave up the CEO position in 2014, the stock was trading at about $46, still down about 25 percent from its 1999 high.

New CEO Satya Nadella has done a good job of developing Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing services, which have pushed the stock up over 50 percent, to a new high $72 on July 14. Although its Azure unit only holds a 19 percent share of all cloud computing hosting, Azure has the ability to run smoothly on Windows, Android, IOS, or Linux, coupled with the ability to provide deep integration for advanced analytics and real-time data visualization. As a result, Microsoft has captured almost 66 percent of cloud hosting services with corporations with 500 or more employees.

But Amazon has seen its stock spike over 1,200 percent over the last nine years as the company single-handedly changed retail to omnichannel by dominating online retailing. According to the 10K that the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Amazon accounted for 43 percent of all online sales in 2016. More astonishingly, Amazon accounted for 53 percent of all online sales growth for the year.

The last three years have been even more dramatic, with Amazon’s stock more than tripling, from about $300 to an all-time high on July 14 of $1,004. The biggest piece of that gain was due to Amazon’s AWS (Amazon Web Services) cloud infrastructure services for individuals, companies and governments. AWS now controls over 50 percent of the cloud computing that the Earth’s 7.5 billion people can access through any browser interface.

Gates has diversified his investments in his old age to the point that only about 20 percent of his $89.3 billion net worth is in Microsoft stock. Gates controls Cascade Investment L.L.C., which holds dominant equity positions in companies around the globe. Through Pearson Education, he controls the intellectual property and copywritten curricula for the Common Core State Standards curriculum adopted by 46 states.

But Jeff Bezos is running his life like a start-up entrepreneur, with 90 percent of his $85.2 billion net worth in Amazon stock. The only diversification selling of Amazon stock Bezos is involved in is funding $1 billion for the development of his Blue Origin intergalactic rocket start-up.

Bezos became the second-richest person in the world by passing the $84.5 billion of Inditex Corporation’s Amancio Ortega, the $74.7 billion of Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, and the $64.8 billion of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.


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