Jeff Bezos becomes the world's richest man, breaking the US$100 billion barrier

Amazon's ever-growing share price has catapulted its founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos – who owns 16 per cent of the firm's shares – to the top of the Forbes rich list.

Bezos' net worth has now surpassed the US$100bn ($128.3 billion) mark, making him the only centi-billionaire on the ultra-wealthy list. Forbes reports his real-time net worth to be more than $159 billion.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who was the richest person in the world between 1995 and 2017, before Bezos snatched the title, has a net worth of around $116 billion, and rising.

Next level wealth

With the net worth of some of the world's wealthiest men close to crossing the US$100bn threshold, could we be entering an era of centi-billionaires?

Using Bloomberg data going back to 2016, projections suggest that the top four wealthiest people in the world (after Bezos who has already passed the $100bn benchmark) will all become centi-billionaires by May 2022, with Bill Gates reaching this milestone in just nine months' time.

While the forecasts are by no means conclusive – particularly as much of the wealth at the top comes from the stock market which constantly fluctuates – they give a rough idea of when the upper echelons of the world's rich list will enter the centi-billionaire league table.

Billion dollar boys club

Alongside Bezos and Gates, veteran investor Warren Buffett, French businessman Bernard Arnault and Inditex founder Amancio Ortega make up the five wealthiest people in the world, with estimated real-time net worths of $111bn, $96.2bn and $94.4bn, respectively.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg – currently sitting in sixth place – often dips into the top five rankings when Facebook shares are performing well. Much of the 33-year-old's net worth is tied up in Facebook shares, meaning it rises and falls with the company's stock price.

Amancio Ortega, currently fifth on the billionaire rich list, typically earns more than $513m a year in dividends from his 60 per cent stake in Inditex, the fashion group he founded that owns brands including Zara, Pull & Bear, Bershka and Massimo Dutti.


Smart investments

While Gates owns just 1.3 per cent of Microsoft stock, having donated a significant chunk to charity, he continues to make money from Cascade Investments, an asset management group that invests his personal wealth.

According to the Financial Times, the investment firm, which is managed by Michael Larson, has grown Gates' wealth from about $6.4bn 22 years ago to around $115bn, half of which he has donated.

Warren Buffett is chairman and largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway, which over the past 52 years has recorded an average annual return of 20.8 per cent, while Bernard Arnault, chairman of luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, holds the bulk of his fortune in Christian Dior stock, through which he holds a controlling interest in LVMH.

Money on a loop

A report by Capgemini last year revealed that the number of high-net-worth individuals – those whose assets are worth at least $1m excluding their primary residence – increased by 7.5 per cent in 2016, to a record global high of 16.5m people.

Booming global stock markets has catapulted an extra 1.15m people into the high net-worth individual (HNWI) bracket, and while the number of wealthy individuals in the world is on the up, their personal wealth is also rocketing – by 8.2 per cent in 2016, compared to four per cent in 2015.

It means that the world's wealthiest people collectively hold a US$63.5tn fortune, and are on track to exceed US$100tn by 2025, Capgemini said.

The Telegraph, London