Here’s How Jack Dorsey Has Gotten So Rich (Hint: It’s Not From Twitter)
Jack Dorsey has relinquished his chief executive title at Twitter, he announced on Monday morning, 15 years after cofounding the company. He’s leaving the top job with an estimated $11.8 billion fortune, nearly ten times what he was worth less than a decade ago—but he doesn’t have Twitter to thank for that.
The vast majority of Dorsey’s net worth—88% of his estimated fortune—is tied up in his nearly 11% stake in Square, a fintech company that enables credit card payments for small businesses and owns mobile money transfer app CashApp. Square’s stock price has more than tripled since January 2020 to roughly $213 per share as of 3 pm E.T. Monday afternoon, boosted by well-timed acquisitions and growth at CashApp, which added about 12 million users in 2020. Dorsey, 45, cofounded Square in 2009 with Jim McKelvey and immediately took on the CEO role, just a few years after cofounding Twitter. After getting fired as Twitter CEO in 2008, Dorsey returned to the job in 2015, the same year Square went public. For six years, Dorsey ran both companies simultaneously—a rare feat even for work-obsessed Silicon Valley titans. (Elon Musk also serves as CEO of two companies, electric carmaker Tesla and rocket firm SpaceX.)
The hard work has paid off for Dorsey financially. He first became a billionaire and joined Fintech Zoom’ ranking of the 400 richest Americans in the fall of 2012, with an estimated $1.1 billion net worth based on his stake in Twitter, which had not yet gone public. His fortune climbed to $6.3 billion in October 2018, before tumbling to $2.6 billion in April 2020 as the pandemic briefly pummeled the stock market. The real riches have come during the market’s subsequent recovery: Between April 2020 and November 2021, Dorsey has added more than $9 billion to his net worth, which peaked at $14.9 billion this past October.
Dorsey still holds a sliver of Twitter, worth about $850 million. His fortune increased by $59 million following the Monday announcement, as an uptick in Square’s stock price offset a roughly 2.3% drop in Twitter’s shares. Twitter critics have decried the company’s lack of growth under Dorsey’s leadership. When it went public in 2013, Twitter had roughly 100 million daily active users. As of the most recent quarter, Twitter reported 211 million “monetizable” daily active users—making it far smaller than Instagram, Facebook or TikTok. The company swallowed a $537 million net loss in the third quarter, compared to a $29 million profit during the same period in 2020. Critics have also called out Twitter’s role in enabling the spread of online misinformation, and controversy surrounded Twitter’s decision to ban then-President Donald Trump from its platform in the aftermath of the January 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol. In March, federal lawmakers grilled Dorsey, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai on topics ranging from online vaccine misinformation to children’s screen time.
“If he’s actually stepping away from Twitter this time, Dorsey leaves behind a mixed legacy: a platform that’s useful and potent for quick communication but one that’s been exploited by a range of bad actors,” says Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.
A two-time college dropout, certified masseur and amateur fashion designer before pivoting to tech, Dorsey has chosen a unique approach to billionaire philanthropy. In April 2020, he committed to quickly give away nearly one-third of his Square equity (at the time worth about $1 billion) through a donor-advised fund meant to fund Covid-19 relief, girls’ health and education and universal basic income efforts. A year and a half later, the entrepreneur is almost halfway to his $1 billion goal, according to a public Google Doc Dorsey set up to track his efforts. But because the Square shares he initially earmarked for donation have jumped in value since the initial pledge, he has about $3.2 billion worth of stock left to dole out.
Dorsey will remain Square’s CEO, and he’ll also stick around on Twitter’s board of directors until his term expires in May 2022.
“There’s a lot of talk about the importance of a company being ‘founder-led.’ Ultimately I believe that’s severely limiting and a signal point of failure,” Dorsey said in an e-mail to Twitter staff that he later posted on the platform. “There aren’t many founders who choose their company over their own ego.”