Gates gifts open path for Bezos to seize top spot
UNITED STATES: Bill 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 (NZ$121.7b) on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. But he would be worth US$150b (NZ$210b) if he hadn’t given away almost 700 million Microsoft Corp shares and US$2.9b of cash and other assets to charity, according to an analysis of his publicly disclosed giving since 1996.
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$80.6b (NZ$113b), would be right behind Gates with US$135b (NZ$189b).
Bezos, who passed Gates for a few hours earlier this year, has a net worth of US$85.3b (NZ$119.6b), according to the Bloomberg index, a daily ranking of the 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 some day. 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 like health care and poverty. The foundation has made US$41b in direct grants, including to GuideStar, and holds assets worth US$40.3b, 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 giv- ing. Last year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave away US$4.3b, a little more than 1 per cent of the US$390b donated to charities in the US, 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 he tweeted a request for ideas on how to help people now.
Since 2002, Bezos has given away Amazon shares worth at least US$400m (NZ$561m) at current prices, according to a Bloomberg analysis of Form 4 shareholder filings.
The billionaire said in April that he sells US$1b worth 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 have challenged the hold Gates has had on the top spot since May 2013. Ortega, whose net worth peaked at US$85.9b in June, has since fallen behind Buffett to the No 4 spot with a net worth of US$79.8b (NZ$112b).
- Washington Post