Jeff Bezos is set to become the world’s richest man

Of course, Bezos avoids talking publicly about his wealth. Like most tech tycoons, he insists he’s trying to change the world rather than get rich. In his commencement speech at Princeton, Bezos said he had the idea of selling books on the internet while he was working at a New York hedge fund. Torn between his high-paying job and a risky start-up, he chose the start-up.

“I took the less safe path to follow my passion and I’m proud of that choice,” he said.

Bezos may not only be the richest man in the world today — he might become the richest man ever, at least measured in pure dollars. At his peak Gates was worth $90 billion, marking the largest single fortune ever. With little sign that Amazon’s momentum may be slowing, Bezos could well be the first 12-digit man, worth $100 billion one day.

Indeed, Bezos’ rise to the top of the rich list shows just how large and fast today’s biggest fortunes have become. In the 1980s, Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi was considered the richest man in the world with a net worth of around $4 billion. By 1995, when Gates first became the richest man, he was worth $12.9 billion.

By 2005, Gates was still topping the list at $50 billion.

In 1987, according to Forbes, there were 140 billionaires in the world with a combined net worth of $295 billion. Now, billionaires number 2,043 and have a combined $7.7 trillion. In fact there were more new billionaires in the world in 2016 — 233 — than the entire population of billionaires in 1987.

Gates has been the richest man for 18 of the past 23 years. The only interlopers were Carlos Slim of Mexico, who was the richest man between 2010 and 2012, and Warren Buffett, who was the richest in 2008.

Indeed, with the exception of Slim and the occasional overseas billionaire, Gates and Buffett have been a duopoly at the top of the rich list. Their close friendship and partnering in philanthropy made them a potent…

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