Jeff Bezos’ wealth unaffected by COVID; Amazon CEO creates new record

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Jeff Bezos Amazon CEO
Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos speaking at a public event.

American industrialist and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth has created a new record, even though he gave up a quarter of his share in Amazon last year as part of a divorce settlement. US-based e-commerce giant’s shares rose 4.4% to a record of $2,878.70 on Wednesday, raising the founders’ world-leading fortune to $171.6 billion.

The Bloomberg Index highlights that this smashes his previous high from September 4, 2018, of $167.7 billion.

His earnings — this year alone $56.7 billion — reflect a widening income gap in the US amid the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Initial public offerings and booming stock markets have raised mega fortunes, even though tens of millions have lost their jobs.

After receiving complaints this week about ending the pandemic hazard pay, Amazon said it would spend around $500 million on giving the most front-line workers one-time $500 bonuses.

Amazon is on a roll, showing tremendous growth with the pandemic driving the change from brick-and-mortar retail to e-commerce. Bezos holds 11% of the market, the bulk of his fortune.

The company refused to offer any comments on the news.

The majority of those with the highest gains in income have come from the tech industry including Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, who has added $25.8 billion to his fortune since January 1, and founder Eric Yuan of Zoom Video Communications Inc., whose wealth has nearly quadrupled to $13.1 billion.

But not everyone came out ahead this year. Amancio Ortega of Spain, the billionaire behind the fast-fashion chain of Zara, has lost $19.2 billion, the highest on the Bloomberg index. Hathaway, Berkshire Inc. Chairman Warren Buffett lost $19bn, while French luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault lost $17.6bn.

With most of them weathering the crisis, the collective net worth of the 500 richest people in the world now stands at $5.93 trillion, compared with $5.91 trillion at the start of the year.