On Monday, shares in the online giant took on some rocket fuel and headed off for Mars, like Bezos presumably hopes his space exploration company will one day do. Having ended last week at $2,962, they finished the day just shy of $3,200, an all time high for the company. Bezos increased his net worth by $13bn in the process. Shares go up and down. But even if Amazon lost half its value Bezos would still be staggering, stupendously rich.
Amazon started the year with a share price at $1,898, since which time it has gained nearly 70 per cent in the midst of a global economic crunch, by dint of being in the right place at the right time. When other retailers were forced to close, Amazon picked up the slack, busily fulfilling orders and in the process fuelling the vast personal economy of Bezos, who owns 11 per cent of the company and whose estimated $190bn personal fortune is now within sight of the GDP of Greece.
Given that Bezos started Amazon from his garage, there are many people who hold him up as the poster boy for Western capitalism – a shining example of what can be done with entrepreneurship (and an Ivy League education). In reality, he is a prime example of a predator capitalist . Countless businesses have crashed and burned as Amazon and Bezos have grabbed for themselves an ever larger piece of the consumers' spending.
Capitalism's apologists tell us that the creation of people like Bezos means that a portion of their vast wealth will “trickle down” and make life better for the rest of us. But it doesn’t; it trickles up. When you have as much money as Bezos, more inevitably flows in your direction regardless of the economic conditions.
Defenders of capitalism will not let you forget that he creates employment in a country in which one in every five workers can’t find a job, and where food bank use is booming as a result. True enough, but Amazon jobs are a mixed blessing. The labour issues and the negative media headlines has led to Amazon running advertisements featuring smiling, happy workers.
And those PR spokespersons remind us of the generousity of Bezos and his charitable contributions. He has yet to sign the “Giving Pledge” in which the world’s mega-rich promise voluntary philanthropy.
Bezos will never, in his lifetime, be able to spend what he has now, let alone what will be added to his pile by the time he’s done. You could easily double Bezos’ current expenditure bills and he would still be rich beyond the dreams of avarice.
Luxury yachts and private jets are among the pricier purchases for today’s billionaire. But put it this way: Bezos newly acquired $13bn could buy British Airways owner IAG twice over, with enough left over for a small fleet of yachts.