My View: Bezos changed the world; Buffett, not so much.
According to Bloomberg:
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is now the second richest person on the planet.
His $76.7 billion personal fortune puts him ahead of Warren Buffett and gaining on Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Here’s what I find interesting about the Top 10 list …
There are 3 distinct sectors on the list: technology, consumer products, and investing.
One might argue that the first two — technology, consumer products – have a material impact on people’s lives.
The latter – investing – not so much … unless the investments are in early stage companies that use the capital for innovation and growth.
So, I tip my cap to Gates & Bezos … they saw “worlds” that others didn’t … they took risk … and they innovated in ways that really changed peoples life.
Practically every day, many (most?) people boot up Windows, Word, Excel, Powerpoint … and shop online.
It wasn’t like that a couple of decades ago, right?
Now, about the investors …
I’ve never been a big Buffett fan.
I side with the pundit who observes:
“If the devil’s greatest trick was to make the world believe he didn’t exist, then Warren Buffett’s greatest ruse has been to make the world forget he was a hedge fund manager.”
Bottom line: Buffett has shrewdly leveraged hedge fund terms & conditions (small investments, out-sized share of gains), the miracle of compounding and, of course, very favorable tax laws (think capital gains rates).
Nothing wrong with that … but, it’s certainly not world-changing.
Coke would have been Coke without him … yeah, there are still some Dairy Queens around … GEICO has clever ads … Burlington Northern chugs along.
But, US Air is now United … Moody’s (the rating service) was a co-conspirator in the financial crisis … Goldman & GE got propped up during the crisis (by giving Buffett highly preferential terms).
But, seriously, what has Buffett done to change the world?
OK, he’s bequeathing his stockpile of dough to his buddy’s Gates Foundation … that’ll do some good … but pardon my skepticism if I think the move is more tax dodge than altruism.
On the other hand, Bezos continues to reach for the sky … figuratively and literally.
He keeps pushing Amazon to new heights, and drives cutting edge technology: space travel, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and more.
So, I’m glad the dude is moving up the list.
P.S. Also note on the list that, together, the Koch Brothers – two other “heartland” investors and business managers — weigh in at $95.8 billion … more than Buffett, more than Bezos … and, even more than Gates.
Geez, you just don’t hear much about what masterful investors and business managers they are, do you?