But while his business is booming thanks to millions of locked-down customers who rely on Amazon for their goods, he’s not quite on the verge of becoming the world’s first trillionaire. Yet.
Social media lit up with angry speculation on Wednesday night amid reports that the COVID-19 threat might actually push Bezos into trillionaire territory — a mind-blowing new strata of wealth that no person has ever achieved. If Bezos keeps making money at his current pace, he could be worth $1 trillion by 2026, according to those reports. (That’s $1,000,000,000,000, for those who want to count the zeroes.)
The reports all cite a single, months-old analysis by Comparisun, a small business advice platform that based its prediction on some back-of-the-napkin math. Essentially, it looked at how much each billionaire’s wealth grew over the last five years, then assumed that rate of growth would steadily continue for the rest of their lives.
That sort of math ignores the ups and downs of the global market and doesn’t account for the fact that there are only so many customers in the world (meaning that at some point, you run out of new people to buy your products).
It also didn’t account for the coronavirus pandemic, the sudden surge in Amazon demand or the real-life toll that demand has exacted on Bezos’ warehouse employees, many of whom have complained that they’re not adequately protected from the disease.
In other words, it didn’t account for real life and all of the wild swings that a company can go through, or the $38 billion that Bezos surrendered in his divorce last year.
Bezos is currently the richest man in the world with a fortune of about $143 billion, according to the live-tracking Bloomberg Billionaire Index. That’s well ahead of second-place Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder worth $106 billion. Gates has largely stepped back from the billionaire tech race and now spends most of his time trying to develop life-saving vaccines and technologies through his charity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bezos’ fortune has had a bit of an up-and-down year, but the coronavirus lockdowns helped him ride from a low point of $105 billion in mid-March up to his current $143 billion valuation, Bloomberg data shows.
The data also shows that Bezos’ wealth isn’t on a steady train to trillionaire status, as Forbes pointed out in a fact check on Thursday.
Bezos was the first billionaire to pass the $100-billion mark in 2017, and speculation has been rampant for years that he could one day be worth $1 trillion. A CNBC report in 2018 suggested that he could hit that goal if Amazon’s shares hit a value of $12,600 and if he held onto all of his stock. He’s sold billions worth of stock since then, and Amazon’s shares were trading at about $2,359 on Thursday morning, according to Reuters. That’s a surge of about 28 per cent over the year to date, but it’s still not close to making Bezos a trillionaire.
Amazon has also pledged to pour about $4 billion back into the business this year to boost wages for warehouse workers, add more coronavirus testing and increase cleaning efforts at its facilities. That could take a bite out of its overall value and slow Bezos’ march to $1 trillion.
Although many were quick to condemn the idea that Bezos might be a trillionaire, others applauded him as an unprecedented success story.
“Jeff Bezos is a billionaire (not a ‘TRILLIONAIRE’) because he has provided people with a service that they value,” Twitter user Wyatt Claypool wrote. “Most people don’t pay for things they don’t want and Amazon has inarguably made life easier for the poor.”
Several users pointed out that if people are truly scared of Bezos becoming a trillionaire, there’s one way to slow him down: don’t order from Amazon. After all, he’s not trillionaire — yet.