Have you heard the one about the guy with too much money?!
The two-way race for which white tech man has the most unfathomable amount of money seesawed again on Friday.
Jeff Bezos has led the pack for most of 2019 as the richest rich guy, with about $110 billion in the bank. Nipping at his sumptuously adorned heels has been Bill Gates, a grandfatherly-seeming nice guy philanthropist who was also known as a “ruthless schemer” in his heyday as Microsoft CEO. Gates’ fortunate has hovered around a paltry $107 billion.
But lo, the tables have turned! Gates overtook Bezos at the close of trading on Friday to become the world’s richest man. Gates is currently worth $110 billion, while Bezos is counting his ducats at $109 billion.
Net worth fluctuates on a daily basis because a lot of these guys’ financial value is tied to the massive amounts of stock they have in their various corporations — and stock prices change. Bloomberg keeps track of it all at the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which it updates at the close of trading every day.
Thanks to a bump in Microsoft stock, and a decline in Amazon stock, Bezos and Gates traded places on the list in the one and two spots. The stock changes were likely in response to the Pentagon awarding Microsoft a $10 billion cloud computing contract, which meant that Amazon’s cloud arm, Amazon World Service (AWS), missed out on that government cashola. Bezos himself lost $845 million in a single day.
Jeff Bezos takes a lot of flak as a tight-pursed capitalist, and for good reason. In 2018, when Amazon stock soared, he became the richest person in history with a net worth of $150 billion. At the same time, his company is notorious for squeezing productivity out of its workers at the expense of workers’ rights and well-being.
And personally, Bezos has conspicuously not signed The Giving Pledge — the billionaire promise to give away half of your wealth — while many of his contemporaries have. (In a spectacular move of petty charitability, ex-wife Mackenzie Bezos signed on to the pledge almost as soon as her divorce from Jeff was finalized).
Gates, on the other hand, is seen as the archetypical charitable billionaire. The Gates Foundation is the world’s largest philanthropy, and it has championed the issue of curing the world’s most in-need places of malaria. Gates even helped found The Giving Pledge, alongside Warren Buffett, and is himself a signee.
On the other hand, Gates’ fortune got some uncommon scrutiny in November when he criticized presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and her proposed “wealth tax.” Gates said that he would be happy to pay an additional $10 billion in taxes, but that he would be concerned if she taxed $100 billion.
That’s not the wealth tax figure: Warren proposes a six percent tax on households worth over $1 billion. But the internet (and Bernie Sanders) were quick to point out that, even with $100 billion in taxes, Gates would still have several billion left over.
Elizabeth Warren also invited Gates to have a conversation and explain her plan.
Can anyone be an ethical billionaire? Gates has made the case for it. But even as he pledges away his fortune, he just keeps getting richer.