The pandemic has hit retail hard — but not if you’re Amazon cofounder Jeff Bezos or the Walton family behind the Walmart chain. They have seen their financial wealth skyrocket over the past year as both Amazon and Walmart have thrived during the crisis, according to Forbes’ latest annual ranking of the 400 wealthiest Americans based on stock prices and exchange rates.
Bezos was once again at the top of the pile and he is even richer than last year, with Amazon profiting greatly when much of the country was in lockdown. As of July 24, the day that Forbes used for the ranking, he had a fortune of $179 billion, up 57 percent from 2019. That doesn’t tell the whole story, though, as Forbes reported in late August that Bezos’ net worth reached a record-breaking $200 billion. He was the first person in history to cross that milestone.
Bezos’ ex-wife MacKenzie Scott is also $20 billion richer than last year, the ranking showed. Thanks to her 4 percent stake in Amazon, a 64 percent increase in its stock meant that she was in 13th place with a $57 billion fortune.
As for Alice Walton, the daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, she was in 10th place with a net worth of $62.3 billion, clocking in a gain of almost $11 billion from last year. Her brothers Jim Walton and Rob Walton were just behind her with fortunes of $62.1 billion and $61.6 billion respectively.
Other members of Walmart’s founding family, including Nancy Walton Laurie and Ann Walton Kroenke, also saw their fortunes rise on the back of increases in the retailer’s stock. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer has continued to generate strong revenues during the pandemic, with e-commerce sales jumping by 94 percent in the three months ending July 31.
Overall, the aggregate wealth of the Forbes’ list was $3.2 trillion, up 8 percent from a year ago and a record in the four decades Forbes has tracked the richest Americans’ fortunes.
“The remarkable growth in fortunes of The Forbes 400 stands out at a time of pandemic-induced economic upheaval,” said Kerry A. Dolan, assistant managing editor of wealth at Forbes. “Much of the wealth is highly concentrated. The top 21 richest on the list (there is a tie at No. 20) account for 42 percent of the total wealth.”
Within that, there were 25 drop-offs who made the 2019 list but fell off this year’s ranking, with 10 of those due in part to setbacks related to the COVID-19 outbreak. While some exited the list, there were 18 newcomers including Eric Yuan, ceo of Zoom Video Communications, with a net worth of $11 billion, and Jim Koch, cofounder and chairman of the Boston Beer Company, producer of Samuel Adams Beer, with a net worth of $2.6 billion.
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