Millions of people around the world have lost their jobs and trillions of dollars have been wiped from the value of stock markets.
But not everyone has lost. Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, is $5.5 billion (£4.3 billion) richer today than he was at the beginning of the year. His paper fortune, usually held in Amazon stocks, rose by $3.9 billion to $120 billion on Thursday alone – enough to buy 188,000 standard gold bars (even taking into account the rising gold price).
Jeff Bezos , 56, took advantage this week of the best three-day stock market meeting since 1933 and helped Amazon’s share price recoup almost all its losses this month at around $1,920, although that was slightly below their peak of $2,170 in February. Bezos owns about 12% of Amazon’s shares.
He saved himself from greater losses by selling a large portion of his Amazon shares in February, before the global scale of the coronavirus crisis was fully recognized and before the stock market collapsed.
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In a call with @GovInslee, I thanked him for the Herculean efforts he and his team have undertaken and for his leadership during this unsettling time. I emphasized that the most important need is plentiful testing capacity everywhere, and pledged Amazon’s continuing help with logistics, jobs, and working to get critical supplies to those in need.
According to legal regulations, Bezos sold $3.4 billion worth of Amazon shares in the first week of February, just before the share price peaked.
There is no suggestion that Bezos acted inappropriately by selling the shares or that he acted on non-public information about the consequences of the pandemic. But his timing was almost perfect. The share sales, which represented approximately 3% of his total shareholding, were much larger than Bezos had done in the previous months. The shares sold were as much as he had sold in the previous 12 months, according to the analysis of the Wall Street Journal.
Other U.S. executives who have either been happy or smart by selling large chunks of their shares in February include Larry Fink, the chief executive of fund manager BlackRock, who saved potential losses of $9m, and Lance Uggla, CEO of data firm IHS Markit, who sold $47m of shares on February 19 that would have fallen to $19m if he had held them.
In total, U.S. executives sold about $9.2 billion worth of shares in the companies they run in the five weeks before the start of the stock market routine. Sales before the market collapsed by 30% saved them a loss of $1.9 billion in paper.