Mark Gimein for Bloomberg:
Comparing Bezos’s fortune to Amazon’s earnings highlights how deeply puzzling that increase has been. Since 2003, the first year in which Amazon earned a profit, through the end of 2011, Amazon has reported a total of $5 billion in earnings. Amazon has not yet reported results for this year; it lost money in the last quarter, but is expected to turn a profit for the year.
Think of it this way: if Bezos had started the company himself, still owned all of it, and had taken out every penny in profit, his bank balance would be less than one-quarter of what his shares are worth. Or think of it another way: Apple’s profit for the last quarter alone is well over twice Amazon’s profit over its entire entire existence.
It’s crazy, but Amazon appears to be “gaming” Wall Street by not being extremely profitable. There really is nowhere to go but up. The sky is still the limit. As opposed to Apple, which has earned more money in the past year than any company ever save one: Exxon. If the sky is the limit, they’re almost in outer space.