Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, has held the title of the world's richest person with a net worth totaling $182 billion since he claimed the title from Microsoft's Bill Gates in 2017. Previously, his wealth significantly surpassed that of other global billionaires, including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. However, in January of 2021, Bezos was knocked off of the top for the first time by his tech-rival Elon Musk, the eccentric CEO of Tesla. Musk began 2020 with a net worth just shy of $30 billion. While the figure is certainly impressive, it was nowhere near large enough to earn him the title of the world's richest person. In fact, he did not even make Forbes' Top 30 list in 2019. However, Tesla experienced unprecedented growth throughout the year with a stock rise of 700%. This not only increased Musk's worth five-fold but placed him in direct competition with Jeff Bezos.
The professional and sometimes personal feud between Bezos and Musk goes back 15 years. The primary reason is both men's space ambitions. In 2000, Bezos founded Blue Origin, an aerospace manufacturing company. Two years later, Musk founded his own space-centered company, Space X. The relationship between Musk and Bezos began heating up in 2013 when Musk attempted to sign a deal that would give Space X exclusive use of a NASA launchpad. Bezos heavily protested the move, arguing that the pad should be available to all launch companies. Musk did not take this lightly and called Bezos' proposal a "phony blocking tactic." Over the years, Musk has been particularly vocal about his distaste for Bezos, Amazon and Blue Origin on social media and in interviews. On several occasions, Musk has claimed Bezos is a "copycat" and that Amazon is "a monopoly that should be broken up." Bezos, on the other hand, has chosen a subtler route but has made targeted comments about his competitor's endeavors throughout the years. In particular, Bezos has criticized Space X's mission of colonizing Mars, calling the ambition "unmotivating" and "an illusion."
Recently, the rivalry has become about wealth as well. According to Forbes, Musk briefly became the world's richest man on Friday, January 8th following an 8.2% increase in Tesla shares. When he discovered the news, Musk tweeted, "How strange." Due to the fluctuating stock market, Bezos retook the #1 spot once again on Monday, Jan. 11 after Tesla suffered a momentary decrease in valuation. However, the following day, Musk surpassed Bezos for a second time when Tesla shares quickly rebounded. Currently, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index and Forbes' real-time billionaire list contradict one another. While Bloomberg maintains Musk in the top position, Forbes' calculations suggest Bezos is still the wealthiest of them all. With the world facing extraordinary circumstances and constant change, it is safe to assume that the title will continue to be contested well into 2021.