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Jeff Bezos at Museum of Flight
Jeff Bezos talks with students at the opening of the “Apollo” exhibit at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos seized the title of richest person on the planet, knocking Seattle area next door neighbor Bill Gates to the number two spot (Gates’ net worth now stands at $90 billion, in part because he’s given so much money away).

But Bezos, at 54, is still in the prime of his earning potential. He now boasts a net worth of $112 billion, marking the first time that a person on Forbes’ billionaires list has emerged with what the publication dubbed a “12-figure fortune.” His wealth also jumped by $39 billion, which Forbes said was the biggest year-over-year gain in the history of the list.

With the new status, Bezos now is worth more than the gross domestic product of Morocco.

Amazingly, Bezos — who often declares that its still “Day One” at Amazon — has maintained a level of nimbleness and entrepreneurial energy, even as the company he concocted on a cross-country road trip to Seattle has soared above 565,000 employees worldwide. The one-time online bookseller, which many believed would crater during the dot-com bust, now is valued at $744 billion.

Amazon’s appetite for expansion is mind-boggling. In some ways, it’s not so much a one-trick-pony tech company, but a multi-faceted tech conglomerate with interests in entertainment, logistics, cloud technology, health care and many other areas of business.

As the company searches across North America for its second headquarters — which would employ as many as 50,000 people — Bezos is positioning Amazon for a new stage of growth with some bold moves, including last year’s acquisition of Whole Foods and last month’s purchase of smart doorbell maker Ring. In fact, GeekWire reported yesterday that Amazon is on an “unprecedented” buying spree.

Here’s a look at other top names who made the list, which now counts 2,208 billionaires with a combined wealth of $9.1 trillion. That was up 18 percent over the prior year.

The billionaires (Photo via Forbes)

Other notable Seattle area billionaires who made the list: Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (#22, with net worth of $38.4 billion); Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (#44, with net worth of $21.7 billion); Valve CEO Gabe Newell (#334, with net worth of $5.5 billion); Oakley founder James Jannard (#527, with net worth of $4.2 billion); Telecom pioneer Craig McCaw (#1394, with net worth of $1.7 billion)

Here’s a history of how Bezos rose to the top of the billionaire charts, courtesy of Forbes.

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