How Covid-19 made Amazon’s Jeff Bezos the richest person in history, adjusted for inflation – now worth double Elon Musk

Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, is now the richest person in history. Photo: Getty Images/TNS
Jeff Bezos, the billionaire CEO of Amazon and richest person in the world, now has a fortune that exceeds US$200 billion, Forbes and Bloomberg have reported. Forbes estimated that Bezos was worth US$204.6 billion when the markets closed on August 26, while Bloomberg pegged his wealth at US$202 billion. The difference might appear like small change to him.

It's a sum that has never been amassed by one person before, even when adjusting for inflation.

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Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon and the world's richest man. Photo: AFP
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, the second-richest person in the world (who recently faced bizarre conspiracy theories claiming he started the coronavirus) with a net worth of US$116.1 billion, now trails Bezos by a whopping US$88.5 billion. Gates’ US$100 billion fortune at the height of the dot-com boom in 1999 would still be worth US$158 billion in today's dollars – but that’s just three-quarters of what Bezos is currently worth – Forbes reported.
Microsoft founder and co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates. Photo: AFP

Bezos' fortune is also the equivalent of one per cent of US gross domestic product, which sat at US$21.6 trillion in the first quarter of 2020 but dropped to US$19.4 trillion last quarter, according to the Department of Commerce.

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Amazon has experienced a surge in online sales during the Covid-19 pandemic as people turn to online shopping while at home, sending the company's market capitalisation through the roof. It's now valued at US$1.7 trillion.

Security gates at Amazon India's new fulfilment centre situated on the outskirts of Bangalore. Photo: AFP

Last quarter, Amazon blew past Wall Street's expectations, reporting US$5.2 billion in net profit, even after warning investors it would spend all of the US$4 billion it had expected to make for the quarter on Covid-19-related initiatives.

As a result, Bezos has seen his net worth nearly double during the pandemic: jumping by US$97 billion from pandemic lows in early March, according to Bloomberg.

Most of Bezos' wealth comes from his stock in Amazon, in which he has an 11 per cent stake, according to 2020 SEC filings cited by Bloomberg. He also owns The Washington Post and the space exploration company Blue Origin, which competes with the likes of Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk celebrates the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft in May 2020. Photo: Reuters
A handful of America’s ultra-wealthy, including Bezos, Musk and Gates, have seen extraordinary gains during the pandemic, even with roughly 10 per cent of Americans still out of work.
A report last week from the Institute for Policy Studies found that Bezos has been the biggest beneficiary of the pandemic in terms of total net worth increase since mid-March, while Musk saw the highest percentage gains with a 228 per cent boost, taking his personal fortune from US$24.6 billion pre-pandemic to US$73.1 billion as of August 13.

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The report, which analysed how the dozen richest Americans' fortunes have grown in the past few months, included data as of August 13, meaning it doesn’t account for more recent gains. Musk's wealth, for example, climbed another US$8 billion in one day alone soon after IPS published its report as Tesla's stock soared to an all-time high, and surpassed US$100 billion on August 26, according to Bloomberg.
CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos addresses Amazon's annual Smbhav event in New Delhi in January 2020. Photo: AFP

By comparison, US household wealth during the first quarter plummeted by 5.6 per cent, the largest drop since the 1950s, and more than half of US households have lost income this year.

Wealth and income inequality in the US had already hit record highs before the pandemic. But in a sign that economic fallout from the coronavirus has concentrated wealth even further than before, data from the US Federal Reserve shows that the top one per cent of Americans actually saw their share of overall wealth in the US decrease from 29.3 per cent to 27.8 per cent during the first quarter of 2020, even as those at the very top saw massive gains.

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In particular, those gains have gone to executives, founders, and early investors of the largest US tech companies, which surged past Wall Street expectations last quarter. Of the 12 wealthiest Americans included in IPS's analysis, eight hailed from the tech industry.

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This article originally appeared in Business Insider.

Jeff Bezos

The Amazon CEO is now worth nearly double Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk – his closest competitors in Forbes’ and Bloomberg billionaires’ ranking – but all of the tech titans are enjoying enormous increases in personal wealth, with global lockdowns proving good for those at very top