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Who Actually Owns Amazon Stock?

With a market value approaching $1 trillion, Amazon is one of the world‘s most powerful companies. But who actually holds shares in this ecommerce giant? Its founder Jeff Bezos holds the most individually-owned shares by far, but a majority of Amazon is owned by institutional investors like Vanguard and Blackrock. Let‘s break down the key shareholders and ownership trends.

Jeff Bezos Maintains Tight Control

Even after stepping down from his CEO role in 2021, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos continues to hold sway over the ecommerce empire he launched out of his Seattle garage in 1994. Bezos currently owns 9.7% of Amazon‘s common shares outstanding, giving him clear voting power on major company decisions.

While Bezos owned nearly 16% of shares at one point, his high-profile divorce settlement in 2019 transferred 25% of his stake to now ex-wife MacKenzie Scott. However, the 9.7% portion Bezos retained still represents close to 992 million shares. At today’s share price near $90, his remaining shares are worth a staggering $87.6 billion.

Despite fluctuations over the years, experts say it’s highly unlikely Bezos will ever fully divest his Amazon ownership. Through skillful use of his voting power and clear influence even post-CEO, he works to guide the company‘s strategic direction while focusing on his rocket company Blue Origin and other ventures.

The Rise of Institutional Investor Influence

While Jeff Bezos looms large as the individual controlling the most Amazon shares by far, institutional investors now own a majority stake in the ecommerce giant. Approximately 59.83% of outstanding shares are held by institutional shareholders like mutual funds, hedge funds, private equity firms, insurance companies, and more.

This gives Wall Street giants considerable say over Amazon‘s business strategy alongside founder Bezos. It also results in greater volatility as institutional investors quickly move capital in and out of AMZN stock based on quarterly earnings reports and changing market dynamics.

Several key institutional investors stand out for the sizable stakes held in Amazon:

  • Vanguard Group – The index investing giant owns 6.88% of outstanding AMZN shares worth over $61 billion
  • BlackRock – The huge asset manager holds a 5.71% stake valued at more than $51 billion
  • State Street Corp – The financial services company owns 3.23% of shares totaling nearly $30 billion

Comparing Amazon‘s Investor Base to Rivals

How does Amazon‘s shareholder composition compare to key competitors in the retail and technology sector? Amazon maintains exceptionally high institutional ownership.

For example, 60% of outstanding Walmart shares are held by institutional investors compared to Amazon’s 60%. This indicates robust Wall Street interest in Amazon’s dominant position, while Walmart ownership tilts slightly more towards strategic partners and insider executives driving grocery and supply chain initiatives.

Another useful comparison is Amazon against other tech titans like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook parent company Meta. All five tech leaders have strong institutional ownership, ranging between 60-70% of total shares. This suggests a predictable trend – as technology companies grow to scale rapidly, professional institutional managers take on leading shareholder roles.

The following table summarizes insider and institutional ownership levels across these retail/technology peers:

Company % Insider Shares % Institutional Shares
Amazon 1.10% 59.83%
Apple 0.07% 60.96%
Microsoft 1.24% 72.69%
Alphabet 0.04% 61.35%
Meta Platforms 0.63% 80.42%
Walmart 1.74% 60.06%

While founders like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates maintain outsized control through special voting structures, most big tech leaders are indeed “owned” by institutional shareholders representing millions of individuals investing through funds and 401ks.

Tracking Changes in Amazon’s Ownership Distribution

Analyzing how Amazon’s investor base has evolved over the past decade reveals several interesting trends. Back in 2012, insider executives and directors controlled a more substantial portion – 2.3% compared to 1% today. Meanwhile institutional ownership sat at a lower 54% 10 years ago.

What drove this consolidation of power towards Wall Street titans? Primarily Amazon’s surging share price in the 2010s. As prices leapt from under $100 per share in 2012 towards $3,000+ in 2021, most small investors were priced out. This paved the way for institutional buyers with huge capital reserves to take larger stakes.

The below chart visualizes Amazon’s changing ownership breakdown over the past decade:

Amazon stock ownership changes

Reviewing the shifting proportions of investors through categories like insiders, institutions, private individuals, etc highlights the growing dominance of Wall Street asset managers.

Meanwhile, what about everyday retail investors who don’t have billions in assets? The long-awaited 20-to-1 stock split in 2022 finally brought Amazon’s per share prices out of the stratosphere, once again opening the gates for regular investors.

Stock Splits Increase Access for Regular Shareholders

For the average investor not backed by an enormous hedge fund or mutual fund company, owning a piece of Amazon has been nearly impossible in recent years. With share prices climbing above $3,000, just one AMZN share cost drastically more than popular stocks like Apple, Microsoft and Alphabet.

Psychologically, extremely high per share prices deter smaller investors. Retail traders view $3,000+ stocks as ‘too expensive’ even if the principle of owning part of a company remains the same. This perception contributed to individual investors staying on the Amazon sidelines.

The March 2022 announcement of a 20-for-1 stock split was a watershed moment in breaking down this mental barrier for regular shareholders. Adjusting the share price from around $2,700 pre-split down to about $130 makes AMZN far less intimidating for retail traders and those buying through mainstream brokerage apps like Robinhood.

In the months after the split took effect, average daily trading volume for AMZN shot up 13.4% year-over-year. This indicates a swift expansion of liquidity provided by everyday investors. As more individuals add Amazon shares to diversified portfolios, percentage ownership by regular people will start catching up to Wall Street institutions over the coming decade.

What Does the Future Hold for Amazon‘s Ownership?

Amazon’s shareholder base will continue evolving as the company ventures into new regions like healthcare and experiments with cutting-edge technology like autonomous delivery drones. While insiders and institutions control the lion’s share of equity today, a gradual decentralization of ownership seems likely.

As share splits make Amazon stock more accessible for regular folks, percentage ownership by retail investors could expand from minor levels today to 10-15% over the next 10 years. This assumes Amazon sustains reasonable valuations – if speculative bubbles pushed share prices to extremes again, institutions would likely consolidate their control once more.

No matter what the future brings, Amazon’s lead shareholder will remain Jeff Bezos. With his vision having built one of Earth’s most important companies, Bezos will continue steering his creation for decades to come.