Amazon's Finder Becomes Richest Man in Modern History

Published July 18th, 2018 - 01:04 GMT
The Amazon founder and CEO now has a net worth more than $150 billion. (AFP)
The Amazon founder and CEO now has a net worth more than $150 billion. (AFP)

What started as an idea for an online bookstore has made Jeff Bezos the wealthiest man in the world.

The Amazon founder and CEO now has a net worth more than $150 billion. That’s about $55 billion more than Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, the world’s second-richest person.

And as Amazon shares continue to hit record highs in the stock market, it appears Bezos' wallet is only going to become more and more stuffed.

It is an incredible story that all began when a 30-year-old Bezos came across a surprising fact. 

Bezos learned that internet usage was growing at 2,300 percent per year. It seemed like proof that his fantasy of an online book store could become a reality. 

'I'd never seen or heard of anything that grew that fast,' he told Princeton University, his alma mater, during a 2010 commencement address. 

'The idea of building an online bookstore with millions of titles - something that simply couldn't exist in the physical world - was very exciting to me.' 

But at the time Bezos was recently married and had a plush job as the vice president of the hedge fund D.E. Shaw Group in Manhattan. 

His wife MacKenzie told him to go for it, but his boss urged him to stick to stability. 

As they went on a long walk in Central Park and Bezos told him of a fantasy he had that would one day become Amazon, his boss said: 'That sounds like a really good idea, but it would be an even better idea for someone who didn't already have a job.'

His boss urged Bezos to take 48 hours to think about his decision. 

The future CEO then realized how he would feel, decades into the future, if he didn't at least try.

'In most cases, our biggest regrets turn out to be acts of omission,' he said at the Summit LA conference in 2017. 

'It's paths not taken and they haunt us. We wonder what would have happened. I knew that, when I'm 80, I would never regret trying this thing that I was super excited about and it failing.' 

'If it failed, fine. I would be very proud of the fact when I'm 80 that I tried. I also knew that it would always haunt me if I didn't try.' 

So Bezos decided to take the 'less safe path' and follow his passion, launching Amazon in 1994. The company went public three years later and has only been growing since. 

This year Amazon entered the top 10 of the Fortune 500 list for the very first time, jumping four spots to eighth place with a revenue of $177.87billion. 

It ranks only behind Walmart - who took the top spot - followed by Exxon Mobil, Berkshire Hathaway, Apple, Unitedhealth Group, McKesson, and CVS. But Bezos' success has come amid controversy surrounding the treatment and pay of his own employees. he median salary of the 566,000 employees at Amazon was $28,446 in 2017, according to CNN Money

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And just days ago more than 400 employees from the Washington Post signed an open letter asking for better pay and benefits from Bezos, who bought the paper in 2013.

The employees specifically asked for 'fair wages, fair benefits for retirement, family leave, health care, and a fair amount of job security.' 

A video featuring employees of the DC newspaper was also released with the open letter to discuss the unsuccessful negotiations they've had with upper management.

'More than one year ago, the Guild's bargaining committee entered into negotiations with the Post, hoping to achieve some of the benefits for our members and share in the success that we've had for the past year,' Freddy Kunkle, Metro reporter and co-chair of the Guild at the Washington Post, said in the video.

The petition noted that within the last year, 'the Post has doubled the number of digital subscriptions and increased its online traffic by more than half', along with meeting or exceeding its advertising team's targets.

But the Post's employees say they haven't reaped the benefits of this progres.

'What we've found instead is a profound unwillingness by the Post's top management to meet us halfway on a lot of the issues that are important to us,' Kunkle said.

The open letter concluded by asking Bezos to 'show the world that you not only can lead the way in creating wealth, but that you also know how to share it with the people who helped you create it'. 

This article has been amended from its original source.

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