Be­zos nearly world’s rich­est, thanks to Gates’ gifts

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - BREN­DAN COF­FEY

ILL Gates is los­ing hold of his ti­tle as the world’s rich­est per­son, with Ama­zon founder Jeff Be­zos once again mount­ing a chal­lenge for the top spot. But if Gates weren’t so phil­an­thropic, it wouldn’t even be close.

Gates has a net worth of US$86.8 bil­lion on the Bloomberg Bil­lion­aires In­dex. He would be worth US$150 bil­lion if he hadn’t given away al­most 700 mil­lion Microsoft Corp. shares and US$2.9 bil­lion of cash and other as­sets to char­ity, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis of his pub­licly dis­closed giv­ing since 1996. The in­dex num­bers are based on the close of trad­ing in New York Wed­nes­day.

And if not for more than a decade of do­nat­ing Berk­shire Hath­away shares to char­ity, War­ren Buf­fett, who is ranked No. 3 in the in­dex with US$80.6 bil­lion, would be right be­hind Gates with US$135 bil­lion.

Be­zos, who passed Gates for a few hours ear­lier this sum­mer, has a net worth of US$85.3 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Bloomberg in­dex, a daily rank­ing of

Bthe world’s 500 rich­est peo­ple.

“Bill Gates and War­ren Buf­fett have set a new bar in terms of the raw scale of their giv­ing,” said Ja­cob Harold, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of GuideS­tar, a non-profit that col­lects in­for­ma­tion on char­i­ties. “I hope and an­tic­i­pate that that’s a bar that’s go­ing to be ex­ceeded some­day. Maybe not in the near fu­ture, but at some point. The sheer scale of it is truly re­mark­able.”

Both Gates, 61, and Buf­fett, 87, have done most of their giv­ing through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion, which aims to im­prove global is­sues such as health care and poverty. The foun­da­tion has made US$41 bil­lion in di­rect grants, in­clud­ing to GuideS­tar, and holds as­sets worth US$40.3 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the char­ity’s web­site.

Gates and Buf­fett also founded the Giv­ing Pledge in 2010, and have been joined by 168 oth­ers who have com­mit­ted to give most of their wealth to char­ity.

Still, bil­lion­aire phi­lan­thropy makes up a small piece of to­tal giv­ing. Last year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion gave away US$4.3 bil­lion, a lit­tle more than one per­cent of the US$390 bil­lion do­nated to char­i­ties in the U.S., ac­cord­ing to data from the Giv­ing In­sti­tute. Amer­i­can in­di­vid­u­als pro­vided more than 72 per cent of char­i­ta­ble fund­ing.

Be­zos, 53, is just start­ing to fo­cus on phi­lan­thropy, and in June tweeted a re­quest for ideas on how to help peo­ple now. Since 2002, Be­zos has given away Ama­zon shares worth at least US$400 mil­lion at cur­rent prices, ac­cord­ing to a Bloomberg anal­y­sis of Form 4 fil­ings. The bil­lion­aire said in April that he sells US$1 bil­lion of Ama­zon stock ev­ery year to fund his space busi­ness Blue Ori­gin. He sold that amount one month later.

Be­zos and Spanish re­tailer Aman­cio Ortega both have chal­lenged the hold Gates has had on the top spot since May 2013. Ortega, whose net worth peaked at US$85.9 bil­lion in June 2, has since fallen be­hind Buf­fett to the No. 4 spot with a net worth of US$79.8 bil­lion.

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