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With Bezos headed to Miami, a look at WA’s richest people

By Renata Geraldo, The Seattle Times
Published: November 6, 2023, 7:36am

SEATTLE — Amazon founder and reigning richest Washingtonian Jeff Bezos announced Thursday that he’s leaving the state from which he built his empire for Miami.

While Bezos’ departure raises questions about the future of his Kent-based space venture, Blue Origin, and his Evergreen State philanthropies, it also opens up the spot of Washington’s richest person, which he has held since 2017.

The Amazon executive chair has $161 billion in wealth, up from 2022 but down from his all-time high in 2021 of $201 billion, according to the Forbes 400 2023. That makes Bezos America’s second-richest person, trailing Tesla’s Elon Musk.

Once Bezos heads east, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates will be the state’s wealthiest resident. With a $111 billion net worth, Gates is the fifth-richest person in the U.S., even after giving away billions and other philanthropies.

Along with Gates, the Washington list is dominated by Microsoft executives, including former CEO Steve Ballmer ($101 billion in net worth), former Microsoft scientist and Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda French Gates ($10.3 billion), and technical fellow and the architect behind the early versions of Office applications Charles Simonyi ($6.4 billion).

The rankings are based on net worth estimates in September compared with September 2022. Forbes noted that, after the past year, “America’s superrich are riding high again.” The richest 400 Americans now have a shared net worth of $4.5 trillion, tying a record set in 2021.

French Gates, who joined the list in 2021 after divorcing Gates, had her wealth rise dramatically from 2022, jumping by nearly $4 billion. Besides being co-chair of the Gates Foundation, she also leads Pivotal Ventures, an incubator and investment venture she created in 2015 focused on companies built by women and underrepresented founders.

MacKenzie Scott, a novelist and philanthropist formerly married to Bezos, was the only other woman on the eight-person list. She has a net worth of $37.1 billion, down slightly from $37.7 billion in 2022.

After her divorce from Bezos, Scott received a 4% stake in Amazon. About three years ago, Scott announced she would give away all of her fortune. Since then, she has given away billions to nonprofits.

Gabe Newell, co-founder and president of Bellevue-based gaming company Valve, saw his wealth increase to $4.3 billion, up from $3.9 billion in 2022.

Finally, Starbucks magnate Howard Schultz’s $3.2 billion net worth declined slightly from $3.3 billion last year. He concluded his third stint as Starbucks’ CEO in March, and in 2019 he considered a run as an independent presidential candidate.

According to Forbes, as of September the richest people in Washington state were:

  • 1. Jeff Bezos ($161 billion)
  • 2. Bill Gates ($111 billion)
  • 3. Steve Ballmer ($101 billion)
  • 4. MacKenzie Scott ($37.1 billion)
  • 5. Melinda French Gates ($10.3 billion)
  • 6. Charles Simonyi ($6.4 billion)
  • 7. Gabe Newell ($4.3 billion)
  • 8. Howard Schultz ($3.2 billion)