By any measure, things are going pretty well for Jeff Bezos. On Thursday, the Amazon.com chief executive briefly surpassed Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to become the richest person on Earth. Bezos—who is worth almost $90 billion thanks to a 17 percent stake in the mega-retailer—has so much money that he’s taken to asking random people on Twitter for suggestions on how to spend it. And in his spare time, the 53-year-old got swole.
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Gates retook the rich-guy crown on Thursday night, after Amazon did what it always does and reported that it barely made any money, despite selling $38 billion worth of goods and services. That fact briefly spooked Wall Street, but it’s a matter of time before Bezos is on top again.
Amazon’s profit was miniscule because the company is pouring money into myriad new growth opportunities, including international expansion, grocery stores, Hollywood movies, and wacky new gadgets. Analysts remain optimistic about Amazon, which is worth about $500 billion. Some say it could outpace the likes of Apple to become the world’s first trillion-dollar company.
It’s a good story, one Bezos has been telling for 20 years. “It remains Day 1,” he wrote in his most recent letter to Amazon shareholders, a reference to the first such letter. In that note, Bezos correctly observed that e-commerce had lots of room to grow. Two decades later, in April, he wrote that Amazon “can have the scope and capabilities of a large company and the spirit and heart of a small one.” The implication: The company can keep growing forever.
Of course, business doesn’t work that way, and neither does time. Amazon probably has plenty of good years ahead of it—maybe even trillion-dollar good—but as the company matures, it looks less like a tech company and more like an acquisitive retailer…