Jeff Bezos made more money than you in 2015. In fact, he made more money than everyone else in the world, thanks to his 83 million shares of Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) -- an amount that's equal to 18% of the company. He also owns The Washington Post and Blue Origin, an aerospace company, which he's offered to use to send Donald Trump to another planet.
After Amazon's stock price more than doubled in 2015, Bezos saw his net worth increase nearly $30 billion. He's now worth more than twice what he was wroth at the end of 2014, and he comes in at No. 4 on Forbes' list of wealthiest people.
Here's how Amazon and Bezos made their big run in 2015.
Surprise! We can make a profit!
Amazon started the year off well when it reported its fourth-quarter earnings for 2014 at the end of January. The company reported earnings per share for the quarter of $0.45, demolishing analysts expectations of $0.18 per share. Shares rocketed 11% higher as a result.
Amazon's gross margins on its domestic operations assuaged investors' fears that the company could never be very profitable because of the low profit margins Amazon has on its retail operations and the constant investment in expanding and improving the business. It also gave some details on Prime's growth, noting that membership increased 53% year over year, and 50% in the United States.
The stock also got a boost from the announcement that management would start breaking out Amazon Web Services, or AWS, finances from its main retail operation, providing more transparency into how both businesses are performing.
Guess what? AWS is more profitable than you thought.
When Amazon reported its first-quarter earnings in April, its results came in mostly in line with expectations, with a very slight beat on revenue. Still, the stock climbed another 12% because of promising details shared about Amazon Web Services.
AWS revenue increased 49% year over year to $1.57 billion during the first quarter. What's more, AWS margins remained steady at 16.9% despite several price cuts over the previous year because of intense competition from Google and Microsoft.
Christmas in July
Amazon is so powerful as a retailer that it decided to create a shopping holiday in the middle of July. Prime Day was created to celebrate the company's 20th anniversary, and offered more discounts than Black Friday. The catch: Shoppers had to be Prime members to get the deals. It was a smashing success. Amazon orders totaled 18% more than Black Friday in 2014.
Later that month, Amazon reported second-quarter earnings that beat expectations again, showing a profit where analysts had been expecting yet another unprofitable quarter. Profits came from a higher-than-expected gross margin, continued strength in AWS, growth in Prime membership, and an increase in Fulfillment by Amazon, Amazon's logistics program for third-party sellers. Shares climbed another 22% after the report and ended July up 23.5% from the end of June.
Another overwhelming earnings report
Amazon shares got another big bump from investors in October, when Amazon reported its third-quarter earnings. The company swung a profit of $0.17 per share against expectations of a $0.17-per-share loss. More surprising (but should it be?) was the continued strength of AWS, which grew revenue to $2.085 billion with an operating income margin of 25%.
Investors rewarded Amazon shareholders by piling into the stock with the excitement of AWS's margin expansion. Shares of Amazon stock increased 22% in October. Shares have increased another 8% or so since the end of October, moving largely on momentum and revised analyst opinions.
It's been a great year for Amazon shareholders, and a fantastic year for the biggest shareholder of them all -- Jeff Bezos.
Adam Levy owns shares of Amazon.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and Amazon.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.