Jeff Bezos: where the $106bn man belongs on the all-time rich list
Just 10 days into 2018 and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and a thorn in the side of Donald Trump, has seen his personal wealth soar by $6bn (£4.4bn).
The man at the helm of the sprawling online empire – which accounted for an extraordinary 89% of online Christmas trading at big US retailers – Bezos is now worth $106bn, enough to cover Britain’s budget deficit twice over and still have change.
Officially, he is the richest man on the planet – the latest in a list of plutocrats stretching all the way back to Croesus, the king of Lydia in the 6th century BC who was so rich he had an expression name after him. Only once before has one man been worth twelve figures, when Bill Gates’s fortune hit its peak of $100bn at the height of the dotcom bubble in 1999. Bezos overtook Gates last year and the gap has widened almost daily.
Even so, the impact of inflation means Bezos is not the richest man who ever lived. He is not even the richest American who ever lived: that title would go to one of the titans of US industry from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Andrew Carnegie, John D Rockefeller and Henry Ford all amassed fortunes that would make the Amazon founder a relative pauper once rising prices were taken into account.
Looking further back, lists of the top 10 richest men of all time include William the Conqueror’s relative Alan Rufus. According to the US magazine Money, when he died around 1093, Alan’s estate was worth £11,000. The Domesday Book had helpfully put a value on all property in England after the Norman conquest and Rufus held 7% of it. Bezos’s wealth, by contrast, does not amount to even 1% of current US GDP; to match Rufus his wealth would need to be $1.25tn.