The message from Jeff Bezos: Big Tech’s not so powerful.

The message from his personal fortune: Oh yes it is.

As Bezos and three other technology magnates defend their businesses at a Congressional hearing on antitrust worries Wednesday, their fast-growing wealth provides a breathtaking measure of their companies’ economic might. The Inc. founder has seen his net worth soar by $63.6 billion this year. On one day this month, it leaped an unprecedented $13 billion. The world’s richest man is now on the cusp of another record: a fortune exceeding $200 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Another chief executive officer testifying, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook Inc., has grown $9.1 billion richer this year, placing his fortune within reach of the centibillionaire status already held by Bezos and Bill Gates.

The mind-boggling accumulation of money underway in technology is unrivaled in speed and scale. No other group of executives has prospered to such a degree. Indeed, the world’s richest people are growing even richer, even faster, as the coronavirus pandemic upends the global economy and drives ever more activity online.

Online Economy
“We moved the brick-and-mortar economy to an online economy dramatically,” said Luigi Zingales, a finance professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “Probably the same thing would have happened in a longer period of time. Now it’s happening in weeks instead of years.”

The hearing is being held by video conference and also features Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, the CEOs of Apple Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. It’s been a combative affair as lawmakers express heightened frustration with how the industry wields its clout.

“In the 19th century, we had the Robber Barons. In the 21st century, we’ve got the ‘Cyber Barons,’” Representative Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, told the CEOs. “And we want to make sure that the extraordinary power and wealth that you’ve been able to amass is not used against the interests of democracy and human rights around the world and not against the free market at home.”

Bezos’s stance has been that his company is an American success story that achieved its position through risk-taking and a relentless focus on customers. In his prepared testimony, he told his personal story and that of his parents, who invested in what would become the world’s largest online retailer.

The collective wealth of tech billionaires in Bloomberg’s index, a ranking of the world’s 500 richest people, has nearly doubled since 2016, from $751 billion to $1.4 trillion today. That’s faster than in every other sector.

Seven of the world’s 10 richest people derive the bulk of their fortune from technology holdings, with a combined net worth of $666 billion, up $147 billion this year.

Big winners so far in 2020 include Elon Musk, whose net worth has more than doubled to $69.7 billion on the back of surging Tesla Inc shares.

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