Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has overtaken Bill Gates and is now the richest person in the world, with a fortune topping $90 billion for the first time ever.
When markets opened on Thursday, Bezos had a net worth of $90.6 billion, putting him $500 million ahead of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Amazon stock opened up 1.6% on Thursday, adding $1.4 billion to Bezos’ net worth. That was enough to put him ahead of Gates, who was last surpassed on Forbes’ real-time rankings for just two days nearly a year ago by Spanish retail giant Amancio Ortega.
Forbes started tracking billionaires around the globe in 1987. Bezos is now the seventh person to hold the title of the world’s richest person and the third American to top the global ranks besides Gates and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett.
While Gates and Buffett both appeared on Forbes’ first ranking of America’s 400 Richest people in 1982, Bezos is a newer addition to Forbes’ wealth rankings. He first appeared on the Forbes 400 in 1998, a year after Amazon went public, with a $1.6 billion fortune. Bezos ranked third richest in the world on Forbes 2017 list of the World's Billionaires, published in March, with a fortune of $72.8 billion.
Bezos would be nowhere close to being the world’s wealthiest person had Gates not given so much of his fortune to philanthropy. Gates, who created the Giving Pledge with Buffett to encourage billionaires to give at least half of their wealth to charitable causes, had given away $32.9 billion over the course of his lifetime through end of 2016. Forbes estimates that Bezos, who has not signed the pledge, had given approximately $100 million to charity through the end of 2015. In June, Bezos tweeted out a request for ideas for his philanthropy, garnering thousands of responses.
Bezos attended Princeton and then worked at a hedge fund before starting his online bookseller in a garage in Seattle in 1994. Amazon has since grown into an online retail behemoth selling a wide range of products. It also offers cloud services through its Amazon Web Services division, known as AWS. Outside of his day job, Jeff Bezos owns aerospace company Blue Origin and the Washington Post.
Gates fortune is built on software firm Microsoft, which he founded in 1975 with his friend Paul Allen. Gates has sold off much of his Microsoft stake but still owns about 2% of the company's shares, worth about $12.4 billion -- just under 14% of his fortune. His investment firm Cascade Investments has ploughed Gates' money into a wide variety of assets, including public stocks, real estate, private equity and venture capital. Gates owns stakes in companies as diverse as Canadian National Railway, hygiene technologies firm Ecolab and Mexican Coke bottler Femsa.