This time it’s official. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates overtook Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos as the world’s richest person on Friday, reclaiming the top ranking for the first time in more than two years.
Gates may have been helped in part by the Pentagon’s surprise decision announced on 25 October to award a US$10-billion cloud computing contract to Microsoft over Amazon. Shares of Microsoft have since climbed 4%, giving Gates a $110-billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Amazon’s stock is down about 2% since the announcement, putting Bezos’s net worth at $108.7-billion.
Gates, 64, had briefly topped Bezos, 55, on an intraday basis last month after Amazon posted its first profit drop in two years, but shares of the world’s biggest online retailer pared the decline. The index, which tracks the wealth of the richest 500 people, is updated each trading day after US markets close. Europe’s richest person, Bernard Arnault, is third with $102.7-billion.
Microsoft has surged 48% this year, boosting the value of Gates’s 1% stake. The rest of his wealth is derived from share sales and investments made over the years by his family office, Cascade.
Bezos would be far richer if he and MacKenzie Bezos hadn’t divorced. The pair announced their split in January, with MacKenzie, 49, receiving a quarter of their Amazon holdings in July. Her net worth dipped to $35-billion on Friday. Gates, on the other hand, may have never relinquished the top spot were it not for his philanthropy. He has donated more than $35-billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation since 1994.
Gates recently shared his thoughts on the wealth tax that’s been proposed by some US Democratic presidential candidates, including Elizabeth Warren, saying he’s already paid more than $10-billion in taxes.
“If I’d had to pay $20-billion, it’s fine,” he said. But “when you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over”.
As of today, that would be $10-billion. — Reported by Tom Metcalf, with assistance from Sophie Alexander, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP