How Rich Jeff Bezos? Today is Jeff Bezos’ last day as CEO of Amazon, ending a remarkable 27 years in which the e-commerce giant became one of the world’s most expensive public companies with a market capitalization of $1.8 trillion. Since 1998, when he first appeared on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans with a net worth of $1.6 billion, his fortune has increased by 12,425% – $196 billion. He now has nearly $202 billion, making him the richest man on Earth.
Bezos will remain as executive chairman of Amazon’s board of directors, while Amazon Web Services head Andy Jassy, who joined the e-tailer in 1997, will begin his day job as CEO on July 5. Bezos will not be as active with the company he founded in 1994; instead, he will focus on his other interests, including charitable foundations, the Bezos Day One Fund and the Bezos Earth Fund, as well as his commercial space company, Blue Origin, which is set to send him and his brother Mark into space July 20.
Bezos first became a billionaire in 1998, a year after Amazon became a public seller of books over the Internet. At the time, the company was just beginning to move beyond the book business, allowing customers to buy CDs online. That year, Amazon’s average stock price was only $7.47, which was only a fraction of what the company’s stock is worth today – $3,487.40.
Over the next two decades, Amazon’s business began to expand into other industries. In 2005, the company launched its famous Prime service, offering customers who paid $79 a year free shipping for two days. (Amazon Prime now costs $119 a year). In 2006, Amazon created its cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services, which is now the company’s most profitable division. The company got into streaming video in 2011, acquired Whole Foods in 2017, bought Ring for home security in 2018, and got into movie production, which it intends to expand by making an offer in May to buy MGM Studios.
Amazon’s enormous size and growing influence has drawn criticism from all sides of the political spectrum. Antitrust regulators are investigating the company, labor activists are trying to unionize Amazon’s sprawling warehouse network, progressive lawmakers are publicly criticizing Bezos’ huge fortune, and conservatives are condemning Amazon’s decision earlier this year to remove a book on transgenderism. Amazon then responded that it has a policy of refusing to sell books that treat LGBTQ identity as a mental illness.
Despite recent obstacles and antitrust concerns, Amazon’s stock price has continued to skyrocket, rewarding its founder with an ever-increasing fortune. In 2018, Bezos became the richest man in the world when his fortune doubled, from $81.5 billion in October 2017 to $160 billion the following October, thanks to Amazon’s skyrocketing stock price. He surpassed Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Mark Zuckerberg to become the first person to amass a 12-figure fortune in Forbes’ annual ranking of the 400 richest Americans. He has remained at the top of the list ever since, especially after the pandemic pushed Amazon stock to new heights. In January of this year, Elon Musk briefly overtook Bezos as the world’s richest, and LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault of France did the same in May, but the rapid rise of Amazon stock brought him back to the top. Since 2019, Bezos’ fortune has increased by 73% – despite the fact that he gave a quarter of Amazon stock to his ex-wife, McKenzie Scott, when they divorced that year.
Forbes estimates that nearly 90 percent of his fortune – about $176 billion – comes from 10 percent of Amazon stock. The rest of his fortune is split between his investments in the rocket company Blue Origin, various houses around the country, the Washington Post newspaper, and a slew of investments in at least two dozen technology and biotechnology companies. Over the years, Bezos has sold about $27 billion worth of Amazon stock (before taxes), leaving himself with tens of billions to spend as he sees fit. Time will tell how he decides to spend it next.