Bill Gates Could Overtake Jeff Bezos as World's Richest Person—His Philanthropy Means He Likely Won't Hold the Title for Long

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is on course to overtake Amazon entrepreneur Jeff Bezos as the world's richest person thanks to recent fluctuations in the stock market, but if he continues to give his wealth away at a similar rate then its a title he's unlikely to hold for long.

According to Bloomberg's Billionaires Index, Bezos ended Thursday still on top with a total net worth of $111 billion, down by $13.9 billion in the year to date. Second place was Gates at $107 billion, up $17 billion during the year so far.

But if after-hours trading on the NASDAQ is an indication of what Friday brings, the two men could well swap places by the start of the weekend. Amazon's shares were down by more than 8 percent at one point as Microsoft's price held steady.

Though after-hours trading is typically in lower volumes than during the normal day for the stock markets, and therefore subject to greater volatility, it can be an indicator of what is to come in the day ahead. And overnight activity suggests the world is about to get a new richest person.

Both Gates and Bezos are philanthropists. In 2018, Bezos along with his ex-wife MacKenzie topped the list of charitable donors compiled by The Chronicle of Philanthropy by giving away $2 billion that year.

Gates and his wife Melinda ranked 17th that year after giving away $138 million, down from $4.78 billion the year before.

The couple has committed to giving away almost all of their fortune to charitable causes. So far, their foundation has an endowment of assets that was worth $46.9 billion at the end of 2018, nearly half of the couple's total wealth.

It was they who founded The Giving Pledge, a commitment signed by many of the world's richest people to give away the majority of their wealth to charity. MacKenzie Bezos has signed the pledge, though her ex-husband has not.

"I'm very lucky that Microsoft was successful and now my wife and I have the opportunity to try and use that money to help those most in need, and so we've picked global health, getting rid of these diseases like malaria and many others, so that's now my full-time work," Gates told the U.K.'s This Morning program in 2016.

"The most phenomenal thing is we had a goal of reducing the number of children who die. And when we got started, it was about 10 percent, over 13 million children under 5 dying each year. And now we've got that down below six million. And so it's been cut in half. It's still six million too many, and we have a clear plan to get it down to three million by 2030."

Gates also spoke about why his children will get only a fraction of their parents' wealth in inheritance when they die.

"Our kids will receive a great education and some money so they'll never be poorly off. They'll go out and have their own careers," Gates said. "It's not a favor to kids to have them have huge sums of wealth because it distorts anything they might do creating their own path, and this money is dedicated to helping the poorest, and they know that, they're proud of that, they go on trips with us and see the work that's being done."

Bill Gates wealth net worth Microsoft philanthropy
Microsoft founder, Co-Chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates delivers a speech during the conference of Global Fund to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria on October 10, 2019, in Lyon, central eastern France. LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images