This is hardly a loss for the 61-year-old Gates, who’s been trying to become less rich for years.
Bezos’s Amazon is a beast, a revenue-generating monster that’s revolutionized retail and seen its stock soar, and the company founder and CEO likely would’ve landed the richest person title sooner or later. Still, it would’ve likely happened a lot later if Gates hadn’t given so much money away.
Gates has donated more than $30 billion to his own charitable organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which fights hunger and poverty, and works to improve health conditions in the world’s poorest regions, as well as to bolster education in the United States.
Gates would still be the planet’s richest person if he hadn’t been so generous with his fortune. According to Bloomberg’s calculation, he now holds $90.7 billion in wealth. Bezos is at $90.9 billion ― a difference of $200 million.
“I’m certainly well taken care of in terms of food and clothes,” Gates told The Telegraph in 2013. “Money has no utility to me beyond a certain point.”
In 2010, Gates and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett founded the Giving Pledge, a commitment by some of the world’s wealthiest people to give away half their wealth. Of the five richest billionaires in the U.S., Bezos is the only one who hasn’t signed.
Bezos does donate to charity, but on a far more modest scale. He’s given away $100 million to charities, or about 0.1 percent of his wealth, reports Robert Frank in The New York Times. He’s also contributed to the public good by buying and revitalizing The Washington Post, which has advanced significant news on the Trump administration this year.
Last month, after The New York Times inquired about his charitable activities, Bezos took to Twitter to solicit ideas on giving. “I’m thinking about a philanthropy strategy that is the opposite of how I mostly spend my time — working on the long term,” he wrote. “For philanthropy, I find I’m drawn to the other end of the spectrum: the right now.
To be sure, Gates didn’t start his charitable efforts in earnest until he retired from full-time work at Microsoft. Bezos, of course, is still in the game.
That means there’s plenty of time for Bezos to shed the No. 1 position.
CORRECTION: An earlier version miscalculated the percentage of his fortune that Bezos has given to charity. It’s 0.1 percent, not 1 percent.