Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is worth $114 billion. That's a nearly unfathomable amount of wealth. But how does it compare to the fortunes of past titans of industry, like John D. Rockefeller? When he died in 1937, his obituary claimed that he had made $1.5 billion in his career. Adjusted for inflation that works out to about $26.6 billion in today's dollars.
That's not that impressive when you look at it that way – not that nearly $27 billion is anything to sneeze at! But if you look at what measuringoutput.com calls "relative output," then Rockefeller is the clear winner. His $1.5 billion in 1937 was roughly 1.6% of the economy. Were he to own the same percentage of the economy today, his net worth would be nearly triple Jeff Bezos'. Pretty cool, right? This is measured using a number of factors from the size of the economy to the value of the dollar to the cost of a loaf of bread. Obviously $1 was more to a kid in 1925 than it is to a kid today. It is a way to quantify the buying power of the wealthiest people of different eras on as level a playing field as possible. Below is a list of some of the richest people in history at the height of their wealth and what they'd be worth today using the "relative output" approach.
John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937)
Net worth via relative output: $331 billion
Fun fact: Oil magnate usually considered the world's first billionaire.
Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)
Net worth via relative output: $321 billion
Fun fact: Sold his steel company in 1901 to J.P. Morgan for $480 million.
Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877)
Net worth via relative output: $238 billion
Fun fact: Shipping and railroad tycoon. Ancestor of Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper.
Bill Gates (b. 1955)
Net worth via relative output: $213 billion
Fun fact: Was the world's richest man for many years. Founder of the Giving Pledge.
Marcus Licinius Crassus (115 B.C.-53 B.C.)
Net worth via relative output: $210 billion
Fun fact: He was a Roman politician who thwarted Spartacus' slave revolt.
Alan the Red (1040-1093)
Net worth via relative output: $203 billion
Fun fact: He was William the Conqueror's cousin and he was basically a real estate/land baron after the Norman Conquest.
John Jacob Astor (1763-1848)
Net worth via relative output: $169 billion
Fun Fact: Astor was a big investor in New York real estate.
Jeff Bezos (b. 1964)
Net worth: $114 billion
Fun fact: World's richest person, not a member of the Giving Pledge.