Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) received a positive assessment of its stock price by research firm Barclays, which pushed its share price to an all-time high of $874. In the process, Amazon’s market capitalization reached $417 billion, just above that of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A). Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, and Berkshire’s founder, Warren Buffett, have become two of the wealthiest people in the world, almost entirely thanks to the success of the two companies they run.
Only three companies have market caps higher than those of Berkshire Hathaway and Amazon. They are Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) at $754 billion, Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (parent of Google) at $581 billion and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) at $504 billion.
Amazon and Berkshire have taken very different paths. Bezos founded Amazon in 1994. It was a tiny company that started as an online book seller. Its core business remains e-commerce. Bezos has added a series of businesses, including video on demand and consumer electronics products such as voice-recognition system Alexa and the Kindle line of tablets and e-readers. Amazon’s fastest growing business is the one least related to its origins. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the largest provider of cloud services in the world. Last year, Amazon had revenue of $136 billion, up from $107 billion in 2015. Net income rose to $2.3 billion from $600 million in 2015.
Berkshire Hathaway was founded in 1839 as a textile company. Buffett took control of it in 1965, and it became the parent of a virtual mutual fund of shares in other large companies, including several financial services companies and a railroad that Buffett has bought in the intervening decades. Its financial holdings include insurance operations GEICO and General Re. Berkshire also owns BNSF Railway, one of the largest railroads in North America. The company owns large stakes in Coca-Cola, American Express, IBM and Apple. Berkshire’s total revenue in 2016 was $224 billion, up from $211 billion in 2015. According to its annual report, Berkshire has holdings in 65 companies, which include the Buffalo News newspaper and jet share operator NetJets. Net income was flat at $15 billion.
According to the Forbes 400, Bezos is the second wealthiest person in America, with a net worth of $67.0 billion. Buffett is third at $65.5 billion. The numbers are almost as close to one another as the market caps of their two companies.