Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, became the richest person in modern history on Monday, amid website outages during the online retailer's Prime Day and labour action in a number of countries.
Bezos' net worth exceeded US$151 billion on Monday as Amazon shares rose early in the day, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Amazon shares fell later in the day, as news broke of website outages in the middle of Amazon's Prime Day promotion, but recovered again on Tuesday, up 1.3 per cent from Monday's close.
Bezos' wealth exceeded even that of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who peaked on the billionaires' index in 1999 at $100 billion (Microsoft shares crashed the following year).
Adjusted for inflation, Gates' net worth hit $150 billion at that time, just short of Bezos' peak on Monday. That makes Bezos the wealthiest person on the Bloomberg since it began tracking the world's richest people in 1982.
Amazon shares have been rising relentlessly, up about 80 per cent over the past year. Bezos has added some $50 billion in net worth just since the start of the year.
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It comes as Amazon faces labour unrest in some countries. Workers at the company's fulfillment centres in Germany were set to walk off the job for a one-day strike Tuesday to demand better working conditions.
Workers in Spain are staging a three-day strike, while in Poland, Amazon employees are staging a work-to-rule action.
"The message is clear -- while the online giant gets rich, it is saving money on the health of its workers," said Stefanie Nutzenberger, a senior official at services union Verdi.
Work conditions under the microscope
Amazon has come in for repeated criticism over work conditions at its warehouses. Several employees have died on the job in the U.S., and a report in the Guardian earlier this year found ambulances had been called 600 times in three years to Amazon centres in the U.K.
Among the reasons for the ambulance calls were electric shocks, major trauma and people who had fallen unconscious.
In response to the labour actions in Europe, Amazon said: "We provide safe and positive working conditions, and encourage anyone to come see for themselves by taking a tour at one of our fulfillment centers."
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