On Friday, the Amazon CEO officially claimed the No. 1 spot for the second time, after his company’s stock shot up by 11 percent. That boost earned Bezos an extra $9 billion overnight, which gives him a net worth of $91.6 billion. That’s a whole $1.6 billion more than Gates.
The last time Bezos bested Gates was back in July, when he was the world’s richest person for just a few hours. But as Amazon’s stock continues to soar thanks to the retail giant’s breakneck diversification, it’s conceivable that Bezos will top the list for the foreseeable future.
So what does a guy do with all this money? Well, if you’re Bill Gates, you use it to fight poverty, disease and a host of other things that make the world a not-so-great place to live for a lot of less fortunate people. Gates is very good at being a billionaire: altruistic, compassionate and extremely low-key.
Jeff Bezos? Not so much. Since transforming the online bookstore he founded in 1994 into the world-beating mega-corporation we know today, the former hedge funder has been anything but timid en route to becoming a captain of industry. Every industry.
At the dawn of the aughts, Bezos set his sights on outer space when he founded Blue Origin, a private spacefaring company whose mission is to colonize the moon. In 2013, Bezos spent $250 million — the equivalent of pocket change to him — to purchase The Washington Post, one of the most influential media brands in the country, if not the world.
This past summer, Amazon bought Whole Foods and is in the process of integrating its many technologies with the popular grocery chain, which will only serve to increase its growing ubiquity. And now that Harvey Weinstein is officially out of Hollywood, it’s reasonable to think that one day Bezos will assume the title of the most-thanked man in Oscar history. He’s already become a mainstay at awards shows, as Amazon’s original content division continues to churn out prestige fare as it looks to keep pace with Netflix in the streaming wars.
It shouldn’t surprise us that Bezos has chosen not to follow in the footsteps of fellow billionaires, like Gates and Warren Buffet, both of whom have donated significant portions of their wealth to various charities.
Bezos’ rise has been meteoric, which means he’s still kind of new to this whole billionaire thing. And with his company locked in a modern-day arms race with fellow tech giants like Google and Facebook, it sometimes feels like his desire to own the planet trumps his desire to save it.
Just because Bezos has been stingier when it comes to charitable pledges than his billionaire counterparts doesn’t mean we should write him off just yet. As outside pressure for him to donate his wealth intensifies, Bezos has hinted that he’s ready to help. “I’m thinking about a philanthropy strategy that is the opposite of how I mostly spend my time — working on the long term,” he tweeted in June. “For philanthropy, I find I’m drawn to the other end of the spectrum: the right now.”
Taking suggestions from the public for how he should spend his money is an innovative approach and could signal a new wave of philanthropy for the world’s wealthiest people. And with Bezos now at the forefront, it’s his turn to lead.