The story behind Bezos becoming world's richest man | Taking Stock

By Tim Raetzloff | Aug 09, 2017

Forbes Magazine proclaimed Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world on July 27.

His reign was brief: by the next day, Bill Gates was back in first place. This news flash was basically social media’s way of seeing just the tip of a substantial iceberg.

The story behind this is that Amazon.com shares soared on July 27, reaching about $1,082 a share. Amazon.com had 480,379,517 shares outstanding as of July 18, as reported in Amazon.com's most recent 10-Q filing at SEC.

That combination gave Amazon.com a market capitalization of just under $520 billion. Market capitalization, the price of one share multiplied by the total numbers of shares outstanding, is the value of a company, or what you would pay for it if you decided to buy the whole company.

On July 27, Amazon.com became the second company in Washington to have a market capitalization of more than half a trillion dollars. Microsoft was already worth more than $570 billion.

Washington thus became the second place in the world to boast two half-trillion dollar companies at once. California was the first, and it has never happened anywhere else.

In fact, at year’s end in 2016, Forbes Magazine reported only six companies in the world that had a market capitalization of more than $350 billion each, including Microsoft and Amazon.com.

Like Jeff Bezos' reign as the world's richest man, Amazon.com's move into territory over $500 billion in market capitalization was short-lived. By the end of trading on July 31, Amazon.com was worth only $472 billion.

But the significance remains. For a brief moment, Washington had two half-trillion dollar companies. In all of the world, only California can make a similar claim.

California still has the two most valuable companies in the world: Apple and Alphabet, which is Google's corporate name. Microsoft is still third, and still comfortably worth more than $500 billion.

By July 28, California had raised the bar a bit. Facebook on July 28 climbed very briefly above $500 billion in market capitalization. In that moment, California became home to three half-trillion dollar companies.

Like Amazon.com's move the day before, Facebook's didn't last. We are back to two half-trillion dollar companies in California, one in Washington and none in the rest of the world. But the contest is virtually never-ending, so it could change again tomorrow.

My advice: get in the habit of looking for the bulk of the iceberg under the tip of social media flash news. There might be a bigger story hiding under the headline.

 

Tim Raetzloff operates Abarim Business Computers at Harbor Square in Edmonds. What he writes combines his sense of history and his sense of numbers. Neither he nor Abarim have an investment in any of the companies mentioned in this column.

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