Tesla CEO Elon Musk passed Jeff Bezos on Bloomberg’s billionaires’ list to become the world’s richest person on Thursday, a title the Amazon founder has held since October 2017.
Tesla shares gained another six per cent on Thursday and are changing hands at just shy of $800 US apiece. Musk is the biggest individual shareholder in Tesla — owning about 20 per cent of the company, plus stock options that would give him another $42 billion US if they vest — so Thursday’s stock gain added more than $4 billion to his net worth.
That was enough to leapfrog Bezos into the top spot, as Musk is worth $188.5 billion US, according to Bloomberg, as of midday Thursday. That’s just ahead of Bezos at $187 billion.
The list also includes Chinese billionaire Zhong Shanshan, who came out of nowhere in recent months to land in the sixth slot as of the end of 2020.
He owns huge stakes in two companies that went public in recent months, one drug company called Wantai, which is working on a COVID-19 vaccine, and another called Nongfu Spring, which is the bestselling bottled water company in Asia.
Few outside of China had ever heard of Zhong before that, but now he is worth more than American investor Warren Buffett, at just over $93 billion US.
Both Musk and Bezos have seen their values skyrocket this year, with Amazon’s share price roughly doubling since March and Tesla’s gaining more than 700 per cent since the start of 2020.
Tesla cranked out about 500,000 cars last year, about as many as General Motors makes in a month. But despite that, Tesla is worth more than Ford, Honda, BMW, General Motors, Daimler, Volkswagen and Toyota put together.
That increase has seen Musk’s net worth rise by $150 billion US in barely a year.
Bezos, meanwhile, has also seen his net worth roughly double during the pandemic. And the Amazon founder would likely still claim the top spot were it not for his high-profile divorce, which saw him give roughly one-quarter of his wealth to his ex-wife, Mackenzie Scott, who helped him found Amazon.
Scott is worth slightly more than $52 billion US, according to Bloomberg, mostly from Amazon shares. Scott recently announced she has given away more than $4 billion during the pandemic.