Jeff Bezos’s Path to Becoming the Richest Person on Earth

By Tom MetcalfTom Metcalf, Jack WitzigJack Witzig and Brendan CoffeyBrendan Coffey

Jeff Bezos’s stake in Amazon.com Inc. has soared nearly fivefold since the online retailer’s public debut two decades ago and hit as high as $86.5 billion just before noon Thursday in New York. Amazon’s intraday price catapulted him past Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates as the world’s richest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. By the end of regular trading, Bezos had slipped back to second place, behind Gates. Over the years, Seattle-based Amazon has expanded its product offerings and global footprint, introducing the Kindle book reader, adding cloud computing services, producing original television and film programming and selling the home voice recognition product Echo. A more than 200 percent surge in the value of Bezos’s stake in the past two years hands the company founder the largest net worth increase among the world’s five richest people.

Race to the Top
Value of public holdings in billions of dollars since Amazon’s 1997 IPO

$0B

$25B

$50B

$75B

$100B

 

 

 

 

 

$100B

$0B

$25B

$50B

$75B

 

 

 

 

 

#1

Jeff Bezos

$85.2B

July 27, 2017, 10:10AM: briefly becomes the world’s richest person

$100B

$178M

$0B

5/31/97

7/27/17

1997

Amazon IPO values business at more than $400M

1998

Expands into CDs and DVDs. Shocking $400 Amazon price target launches CIBC analyst Henry Blodget to fame.

1999

Expands into toys and electronics.

Bezos named Time Magazine “Person of the Year”.

2000

Amazon Marketplace introduced

2002

Amazon’s Web Services businesses start

2003

Search Inside the Book makes its debut

2004

Amazon opens jewelry store

2005

Launch of Amazon Prime

2006

Amazon Fresh makes its debut

2007

First Amazon Kindle sold. Amazon.com market value approaches $40 billion

2010

Amazon Studios begins move into original content

2013

Drone Strategy announced as Prime Air

Debut of Amazon Echo

2015

#2

Bill Gates

$100B

$83.7B

10:10AM

$51.2B

$0B

5/31/97

7/27/17

Total endowment to Gates’s foundations tops $2 billion

1998

Gates steps down as Microsoft CEO; Steve Ballmer takes over

2000

Windows XP debut

2001

2003

Office 2003 is released

2005

Debut of Xbox 360

2007

Windows Vista is introduced

Gates stops working full time at Microsoft

2008

2010

Gates & Buffett create the Giving Pledge. Gates’s donations to charities top $28 billion.

2013

Microsoft agrees to buy Nokia’s handset business

2014

Satya Nadella named Microsoft chief executive officer

#3

Warren Buffett

$100B

$74.5B

10:10AM

$19.2B

$0B

5/31/97

7/27/17

1998

Berkshire Hathaway outperforms the S&P 500 by 83% for the year

1999

Barron’s says Buffett is “losing his magic touch” by refusing to invest in dot-com stocks

2003

Berkshire Hathaway’s share price underperforms the S&P 500 for the just the 12th time in 39 years

2006

Buffett pledges to give away 85% of his Berkshire Hathaway shares to charity (valued at $37 billion). Berkshire Hathaway Class A shares top $100,000.

2009

Reaches deal to pay $26.5 billion for Burlington Northern

2010

Gates & Buffett create the Giving Pledge

2012

Buffett pledges an additional $3 billion worth of Berkshire Hathaway shares to family’s foundations

2015

Berkshire share-price gain since 1964: 1,826,163%

2017

Current value of Berkshire Hathaway shares previously donated reaches $44 billion

#4

Amancio Ortega

$100B

$72.5B

10:10AM

$4.7B

$0B

5/31/97

7/27/17

Inditex IPOs valued at less than $10 billion

2001

2007

Inditex starts to sell home furnishings online

2011

Ortega steps down as Inditex chairman

2012

Ortega becomes Europe’s richest person

2015

Passes Buffett to become No. 2 on the index

#5

Mark Zuckerberg

$100B

$71.8B

10:10AM

$18.0B

$0B

5/31/97

7/27/17

2004

Facebook founded at Harvard. Hits 1 million users by December

Facebook “Like” button introduced

2009

2012

Facebook IPO: May 18; announces more than 1 billion users by October

Becomes richer than the Koch brothers

2016

#1

Jeff Bezos

$0B

$100B

$178M

1997

Amazon IPO values business at more than $400M

1998

$400 Amazon price target launches CIBC analyst Henry Blodget to fame

1999

Bezos named Time Magazine “Person of the Year”.

2000

Amazon Marketplace introduced

2002

Amazon’s Web Services businesses start

2003

Search Inside the Book makes its debut

2004

Amazon opens jewelry store

2005

Launch of Amazon Prime

2006

Amazon Fresh makes its debut

2007

First Amazon Kindle sold. Amazon.com market value approaches $40 billion

2010

Amazon Studios begins move into original content

2013

Drone Strategy announced as Prime Air

2015

Debut of Amazon Echo

$85.2B

July 27, 2017, 10:10AM:

briefly becomes the world’s richest person

#2

Bill Gates

$0B

$100B

$51.2B

Total endowment to Gates’s foundations tops $2 billion

1998

2000

Gates steps down as Microsoft CEO; Steve Ballmer takes over

2001

Windows XP debut

2003

Office 2003 is released

2005

Debut of Xbox 360

2007

Windows Vista is introduced

2008

Gates stops working full time at Microsoft

2010

Gates & Buffett create the Giving Pledge. Gates’s donations to charities top $28 billion.

2013

Microsoft agrees to buy Nokia’s handset business

2014

Satya Nadella named Microsoft chief executive officer

$83.7B

July 27, 2017, 10:10AM

#3

Warren Buffett

$0B

$100B

$19.2B

1998

Berkshire Hathaway outperforms the S&P 500 by 83% for the year

1999

Barron’s says Buffett is “losing his magic touch” by refusing to invest in dot-com stocks

2003

Berkshire Hathaway’s share price underperforms the S&P 500 for the just the 12th time in 39 years

2006

Buffett pledges to give away 85% of his Berkshire Hathaway shares to charity (valued at $37 billion). Berkshire Hathaway Class A shares top $100,000.

2009

Reaches deal to pay $26.5 billion for Burlington Northern

2010

Gates & Buffett create the Giving Pledge

2012

Buffett pledges an additional $3 billion worth of Berkshire Hathaway shares to family’s foundations

2015

Berkshire share-price gain since 1964: 1,826,163%

2017

Current value of Berkshire Hathaway shares previously donated reaches $44 billion

$74.5B

July 27, 2017, 10:10AM

#4

Amancio Ortega

$0B

$100B

Inditex IPOs valued at less than $10 billion

2001

$4.7B

2007

Inditex starts to sell home furnishings online

2011

Ortega steps down as Inditex chairman

2012

Ortega becomes Europe’s richest person

Passes Buffett to become No. 2 on the index

2015

$72.5B

July 27, 2017, 10:10AM

#5

Mark Zuckerberg

$0B

$100B

2004

Facebook founded at Harvard. Hits 1 million users by December

2009

Facebook “Like” button introduced

$18.0B

2012

Facebook IPO: May 18; announces more than 1 billion users by October

2016

Becomes richer than the Koch brothers

$71.8B

July 27, 2017, 10:10AM

1997

$19.2B

Warren Buffett

$51.2B

Bill Gates

$178M

Jeff Bezos

Amazon IPO values business at more than $400M

1998

Shocking $400 Amazon price target launches CIBC analyst Henry Blodget to fame

Total endowment to Gates’s foundations tops $2 billion

Berkshire Hathaway outperforms the S&P 500 by 83% for the year

1999

Expands into toys and electronics

Gates steps down as Microsoft CEO; Steve Ballmer takes over

Barron’s says Buffett is “losing his magic touch” by refusing to invest in dot-com stocks

2000

Bezos named Time Magazine “Person of the Year”

Amazon Marketplace introduced

2001

$4.7B

Amancio

Ortega

Windows XP debut

2002

Amazon’s Web Services businesses start

2003

Berkshire Hathaway’s share price under-

performs the S&P 500 for the just the 

12th time in 39 years

Search Inside the Book makes its debut

Office 2003 is released

2004

Amazon opens jewelry store

2005

Launch of Amazon Prime

Buffett pledges to give away 85% of his Berkshire Hathaway shares to charity (valued at $37 billion)

Debut of Xbox 360

Amazon Fresh makes its debut

2006

Windows Vista is introduced

Berkshire Hathaway Class A shares top $100,000

2007

First Amazon Kindle sold. Amazon.com market value approaches $40 billion

Inditex starts to sell home furnishings online

2008

Gates stops working full time at Microsoft

2009

Reaches deal to pay $26.5 billion for Burlington Northern

2010

Buffett and Gates create the Giving Pledge

Amazon Studios begins move into original content

Gates’s donations to charities top $28 billion

2011

Ortega steps down as Inditex chairman

2012

$18.0B

Mark Zuckerberg

Buffett pledges an additional $3 billion worth of Berkshire Hathaway shares to family’s foundations

Facebook IPO

Ortega becomes Europe’s richest person

Announces more than 1 billion users

2013

Microsoft agrees to buy Nokia’s handset business

Drone Strategy announced as Prime Air

2014

Satya Nadella named Microsoft chief executive officer

Berkshire share-

price gain since 1964: 1,826,163%

2015

Debut of Amazon Echo

Ortega passes Buffett to become No. 2 on the index

Zuckerberg becomes richer than the Koch brothers

2016

Current value of Berkshire Hathaway shares previously donated reaches $44 billion

2017

$85.2B

Jeff Bezos

July 27, 2017, 10:10AM: briefly becomes the world’s richest person

Ortega

Zuckerberg

Buffett

Gates

$0B

$25B

$50B

$75B

$100B

1997

$178M

Jeff Bezos

$19.2B

Warren Buffett

$51.2B

Bill Gates

Amazon IPO values business at more than $400M

1998

Expands into CDs and DVDs

Total endowment to Gates’s foundations tops $2 billion

Shocking $400 Amazon price target launches CIBC analyst Henry Blodget to fame

Berkshire Hathaway outperforms the S&P 500 by 83% for the year

1999

Expands into toys and electronics

Gates steps down as Microsoft CEO; Steve Ballmer takes over

Barron’s says Buffett is “losing his magic touch” by refusing to invest in dot-com stocks

2000

Bezos named Time Magazine “Person of the Year”

Amazon Marketplace introduced

2001

$4.7B

Amancio Ortega

Windows XP debut

2002

Amazon’s Web Services businesses start

2003

Berkshire Hathaway’s share price under-

performs the S&P 500 for the just the 

12th time in 39 years

Search Inside the Book makes its debut

Office 2003 is released

2004

Amazon opens jewelry store

2005

Launch of Amazon Prime

Debut of Xbox 360

Amazon Fresh makes its debut

2006

Buffett pledges to give away 85% of his Berkshire Hathaway shares to charity (valued at $37 billion)

Windows Vista is introduced

Berkshire Hathaway Class A shares top $100,000

2007

First Amazon Kindle sold. Amazon.com market value approaches $40 billion

Inditex starts to sell home furnishings online

2008

Gates stops working full time at Microsoft

2009

Reaches deal to pay $26.5 billion for Burlington Northern

2010

Buffett and Gates create the Giving Pledge

Gates’s donations to charities top $28 billion

Amazon Studios begins move into original content

2011

Ortega steps down as Inditex chairman

2012

$18.0B

Mark Zuckerberg

Buffett pledges an additional $3 billion worth of Berkshire Hathaway shares to family’s foundations

Facebook IPO

Ortega becomes Europe’s richest person

Announces more than 1 billion users

2013

Microsoft agrees to buy Nokia’s handset business

Drone Strategy announced as Prime Air

2014

Satya Nadella named Microsoft chief executive officer

Berkshire share-

price gain since 1964: 1,826,163%

2015

Debut of Amazon Echo

Ortega passes Buffett to become No. 2 on the index

Zuckerberg becomes richer than the Koch brothers

2016

Current value of Berkshire Hathaway shares previously donated reaches $44 billion

2017

$85.2B

Jeff Bezos

July 27, 2017, 10:10AM: briefly becomes the world’s richest person

Ortega

Zuckerberg

Buffett

Gates

$0B

$25B

$50B

$75B

$100B

Bezos’s stake was valued at $178 million when Amazon began trading publicly on May 15, 1997 and he’s added about 400 percent to his net worth since he joined the Bloomberg index in April 2012. At the time, Bezos was ranked No. 35 with $18 billion. He more than doubled his wealth in 2015 and has added almost $40 billion to his fortune since then.

Changing of the Guard
Net worth percent change since March 30, 2012

+319%

Bezos

+300%

Zuckerberg

+200%

Ortega

+100%

Buffett

Gates

0%

3/2012

7/2017

+319%

Bezos

+300%

Zuckerberg

+200%

Ortega

+100%

Buffett

Gates

0%

3/30/2012

7/27/2017

+319%

Bezos

+300%

Zuckerberg

+200%

Ortega

+100%

Buffett

Gates

0%

3/30/2012

7/27/2017