Now World"s Second-Wealthiest, Bezos Travels to Different Drumbeat

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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has entered more rarefied air, having leapfrogged billionaires Amancio Ortega and Warren Buffett to become the second wealthiest person in the world.

Bezos — chief executive of the e-commerce retailer and cloud services provider — last week enjoyed a jump of US$1.5 billion to $75.6 billion net worth, according to Bloomberg, after his company announced a deal to acquire Middle East online retailer

Also owner of The Washington Post and spaceflight firm Blue Origin, Bezos now trails only Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, whose net worth is about $86 billion, in terms of wealth.

Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, is the third-richest person in the world, with a net worth of $75.3 billion. Ortega, the founder of Spanish textile giant Inditex, is No. 4 worldwide and the wealthiest man in Europe, with a net worth of $73.3 billion. Coming in fifth worldwide is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose net worth is $61.2 billion.

Betting on Others

From the standpoint of willingness to take risks to reap rewards, Bezos appears to be on solid ground. Amazon is the dominant e-commerce firm in the U.S. and has driven strong quarterly earnings consistently.

“Bezos’ success is the result of a kind of risk taking that is highly praised, but relatively uncommon,” observed Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“By making very early and large commitments to the Internet as a conduit for delivering information and retail products and transacting sales, Bezos was betting on the ingenuity and innovation of others,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

His Own Rules

Bezos’ wealth is linked directly to the success of the company, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

Bezos kind of has his own way of doing business and doesn’t tie his behavior to outside demands, ne noted.

“Jeff has traditionally ignored calls from Wall Street to return wealth to investors by aggressively investing in Amazon, and it appears that he has the same philosophy in his other ventures,” McGregor told the E-Commerce Times.

Bezos has made investments in a number of other ventures. Bezos Expeditions last year joined Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt’s Tomorrow Ventures and venture capital firms New Enterprise Associates and Rethink Education to invest $40 million into EverFi, an education software startup.

Led CEO Tom Davidson, EverFi specializes in developing technology skills for the next generation of students, including many in underserved communities.

Bezos sits on the board of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a clean technology fund chaired by Gates, which plans to invest about $1 billion in clean technology.

The notoriously secretive Bezos is certain to come under additional public scrutiny as his personal portfolio grows. Amazon has come under fire in recent years as its ever-expanding logistics and distribution requirements have led it to open fulfillment centers in new markets, and propelled it into new competitive arenas — e.g., cargo aircraft, delivery drones and physical stores.

Personal Values

With greater wealth comes the greater likelihood that Bezos will figure in any debate over whether industry titans are taking adequate steps to lift all boats while their personal fortunes soar.

“That the two wealthiest people in the world are now both tech leaders illustrates how profitable the tech sector has become,” said Derecka Mehrens, executive director of Working Partnerships USA.

“Yet the industry has left far too many people behind,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “As our country grapples with widespread economic insecurity, it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure such a dominant industry creates equity and opportunity — especially when this incredible wealth demonstrates that’s possible.”

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain’s New York Business and The New York Times.

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