The surging wealth of US tech moguls disproves the slogan “we’re all in this together”. Jeff Bezos is not even in it with the other multibillionaires. Since the start of March, the net worth of Amazon’s boss has climbed 23 per cent. The Bloomberg Billionaires index has fallen 4 per cent. On Thursday, Mr Bezos’ name began to trend on Twitter as users wondered what it would take for him to become the world’s first trillionaire.
With an estimated $143bn, Mr Bezos is still a long way off. But it is true that the crisis has cleared his path a little. Mr Bezos owns 11 per cent of Amazon, a bright spot in the despondent US economy.
The pandemic is feeding Amazon’s two biggest businesses — ecommerce and cloud computing. In the first three months of 2020, sales rose more than a quarter on the previous year to a record $75.5bn. Shares are up 28 per cent since the start of the year.
Amazon has warned that coronavirus-related spending will crimp second-quarter profits. But the convenience of online shopping and cloud computing will outlast lockdowns and drive up sales long term.
The tech industry’s exceptional market performance in recent months is reflected in the billionaires who have gained most since the start of the year. Along with Mr Bezos the top five includes his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott Bezos, who became the company’s second-biggest individual shareholder following the couple’s divorce, Tesla boss Elon Musk, ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Colin Huang, founder of Chinese ecommerce company Pinduoduo.
Knocking Mr Bezos from his top spot will be as difficult as knocking Amazon from its position as the biggest online retailer. Amazon has 39 per cent of the US online retail market, according to eMarketer. Its next biggest competitor, Walmart, has just 5 per cent.
Politicians who worry Amazon is too powerful are the only opponents likely to make a real difference. Actions so far have been mild. Apple may have won the race to become the first company with a trillion-dollar market value. But in the personal wealth stakes, no one can beat Mr Bezos.
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