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Business News/ News / Jeff Bezos Surpasses Elon Musk as World’s Richest Person
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Jeff Bezos Surpasses Elon Musk as World’s Richest Person

wsj

The Amazon founder has reclaimed the title for the first time since the fall of 2021.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (AP)Premium
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (AP)

Jeff Bezos is back on top.

The Amazon founder is once again the world’s richest person, eclipsing Elon Musk and jumping atop the Bloomberg Billionaires Index for the first time since the fall of 2021.

Bezos’ net worth was $200 billion on Monday, according to Bloomberg. Musk’s personal wealth was $198 billion and LVMH chief Bernard Arnault’s was $197 billion. Musk, Arnault and Bezos have rotated places in recent years atop the ranking, which measures personal wealth based on changes in markets, the economy and other reporting.

Bezos has amassed much of his wealth from e-commerce giant Amazon, which he started in 1994 out of his garage in the Seattle area. He also founded space company Blue Origin and bought the Washington Post for $250 million.

He reclaims the unofficial title as world’s richest person at a time when he has been offloading some of his Amazon shares. Bezos sold more than $8.5 billion worth of Amazon stock in recent weeks, a move that could have tax motivations.

He said last year he was moving from Seattle to Miami to be near his parents and closer to some Blue Origin operations. For individuals, Florida doesn’t have income or capital-gains taxes.

Washington state, meanwhile, has boosted taxes on wealthy individuals. Legislators have added a 7% excise tax on net long-term capital gains above an exemption of $262,000 a year. Capital gains are profits from the sale of investments. The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided not to hear a challenge to the new Washington state tax.

By selling shares after his move to Florida, Bezos may have saved as much as $600 million that he would have had to pay to Washington state if he hadn’t left and still decided to sell, tax attorneys said. Still, his exact savings couldn’t be determined without knowing the original value of the stocks he sold, said Lewis Horowitz, a tax attorney in Seattle.

“The longer answer is why in the world our legislature couldn’t see that wealthy people would move out of state to avoid the tax," Horowitz said. “And that other entrepreneurs would start their businesses in Florida, Texas and Nevada."

Bezos, now executive chairman of Amazon, purchased property in Miami last year and spends time on his $500 million superyacht with his partner, Lauren Sanchez. His net worth has increased by about $23 billion in 2024, according to Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, Musk’s net worth has dropped by $31 billion so far this year as shares of his electric-vehicle company Tesla have tumbled by about 24% year-to-date. A judge dealt a blow to Musk earlier this year when she struck down his Tesla pay package, compensation that was worth as much as $55.8 billion. The judge in Delaware said the process to approve the package had been deeply flawed.

For executives and founders, their net worth tends to be at least partially tied up in shares of their businesses. Volatility in stocks and other holdings can sway their measures of wealth, which means establishing their exact net worth can be tricky.

Musk in 2012 signed the Giving Pledge, a campaign in which some of the world’s richest people have pledged to donate a majority of their wealth to charitable causes. Bezos hasn’t signed on to the campaign, though he has said he plans to give the bulk of his fortune to charities fighting climate change and supporting people who can help unify the fractured political landscape.

The net worth of Musk, a serial entrepreneur, topped $300 billion in 2021. The following year he acquired Twitter, now X, for $44 billion, and sold Tesla stock that year at least in part to fund the acquisition of the social-media company.

Musk and Bezos are rivals in outer space. Bezos went to space in 2021 on one of his Blue Origin rockets. Musk’s SpaceX has launched many of its own rockets to space and is deepening its relationship with the U.S. intelligence and military agencies.

Musk hopes to one day colonize Mars. Bezos years ago took a not-so subtle swipe at those ambitions, saying those who want to live on Mars should “go live on the top of Mount Everest for a year first and see if you like it, because it’s a garden paradise compared to Mars."

Musk, meanwhile, has at times criticized Amazon, calling it a monopoly. In 2021, when Musk overtook Bezos as the world’s richest person, Musk tweeted Bezos an emoji showing a silver medal with the number two on it, an apparent reference to the wealth ranking.

So far at least, Musk hasn’t tweeted about the latest change in the wealth rankings.

Write to Alyssa Lukpat at alyssa.lukpat@wsj.com

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