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Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos American entrepreneur and business executive

American entrepreneur and business executive
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American entrepreneur and business executive
Known for Founder and CEO of Amazon.com; one of the richest men in the world.
A.K.A. Jeffrey Preston Bezos, Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen, Jeff Preston Bezos, Jeffrey Pr...
Is Businessperson Entrepreneur Business executive Computer scientist
From United States of America
Type Business Science Technology
Gender male
Birth 12 January 1964, Albuquerque, USA
Age: 56 years
Star sign CapricornCapricorn
Residence Houston, USA; Miami, USA; Albuquerque, USA
Family
Spouse: MacKenzie Bezos
The details
Biography

Jeffrey Preston Bezos (/ˈbzs/; né Jorgensen; born January 12, 1964) is an American internet and aerospace entrepreneur, media proprietor, and investor. He is best known as the founder, chief executive officer, and president of Amazon. The first centi-billionaire on the Forbes wealth index, Bezos was named the "richest man in modern history" after his net worth increased to $150 billion in July 2018. In September 2018, Forbes described him as "far richer than anyone else on the planet" as he added $1.8 billion to his net worth when Amazon became the second company in history to reach a market cap of $1 trillion.

Bezos was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and raised in Houston, Texas. He graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science. He worked on Wall Street in a variety of related fields from 1986 to early 1994. He founded the online retailer Amazon in late 1994 on a cross-country road trip from New York City to Seattle. The company began as an online bookstore and has since expanded to a wide variety of other e-commerce products and services, including video and audio streaming, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. It is currently the world's largest online sales company, the largest internet company by revenue, as well as the world's largest provider of AI assistance and cloud infrastructure services through its Amazon Web Services arm.

Bezos founded the aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company Blue Origin in 2000. A Blue Origin test flight successfully first reached space in 2015, and the company has upcoming plans to begin commercial suborbital human spaceflight. Bezos also purchased the major American newspaper The Washington Post in 2013 for US$250 million in cash and manages many other investments through his venture capital firm, Bezos Expeditions.

Early life

Bezos was born Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen on January 12, 1964, in Albuquerque, the son of Jacklyn (Gise) Jorgensen and Ted Jorgensen. At the time of his birth, his mother was a 17-year-old high school student, and his father was a bike shop owner. After Jacklyn divorced Ted, she married Cuban immigrant Miguel "Mike" Bezos in April 1968. Shortly after the wedding, Mike adopted four-year-old Jorgensen, whose surname was then changed to Bezos. The family moved to Houston, Texas, where Mike worked as an engineer for Exxon after he received a degree from the University of New Mexico. Bezos attended River Oaks Elementary School in Houston from fourth to sixth grade.

Bezos' maternal grandfather was Lawrence Preston Gise, a regional director of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in Albuquerque. Gise retired early to his family's ranch near Cotulla, Texas, where Bezos would spend many summers in his youth. Bezos would later purchase this ranch and expand it from 25,000 acres (10,117 ha) to 300,000 acres (121,406 ha). His maternal grandmother was Mattie Louise Gise (née Strait), through whom he is a cousin of country singer George Strait. Bezos often displayed scientific interests and technological proficiency; he once rigged an electric alarm to keep his younger siblings out of his room.

The family moved to Miami, Florida, where Bezos attended Miami Palmetto High School. While Bezos was in high school, he worked at McDonald's as a short-order line cook during the breakfast shift. He attended the Student Science Training Program at the University of Florida. He was high school valedictorian, a National Merit Scholar, and a Silver Knight Award winner in 1982. In the graduation speech Bezos told the audience he dreamed of the day when the people of earth would colonize space. A local newspaper quoted his intention "to get all people off the Earth and see it turned into a huge national park."

In 1986, he graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University with a 4.2 grade point average and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in electrical engineering and computer science; he was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In addition, he was elected to Tau Beta Pi and was the president of the Princeton chapter of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.

Business career

Early career

After Bezos graduated from Princeton University in 1986, he was offered jobs at Intel, Bell Labs, and Andersen Consulting, among others. He first worked at Fitel, a fintech telecommunications start-up, where he was tasked with building a network for international trade. Bezos was promoted to head of development and director of customer service thereafter. He transitioned into the banking industry when he became a product manager at Bankers Trust; he worked there from 1988 to 1990. He then joined D. E. Shaw & Co, a newly founded hedge fund with a strong emphasis on mathematical modelling, in 1990 and worked there until 1994. Bezos became D. E. Shaw's fourth senior vice-president at the age of 30.

Amazon

Bezos (center) at a cooperative for robotics in 2005

In late 1993, Bezos decided to establish an online bookstore. He left his job at D. E. Shaw and founded Amazon in his garage on July 5, 1994, after writing its business plan on a cross-country drive from New York City to Seattle. Bezos initially named his new company Cadabra but later changed the name to Amazon after the Amazon River in South America, in part because the name begins with the letter A, which is at the beginning of the alphabet. He accepted an estimated $300,000 from his parents and invested in Amazon. He warned many early investors that there was a 70% chance that Amazon would fail or go bankrupt. Although Amazon was originally an online bookstore, Bezos had always planned to expand to other products. Three years after Bezos founded Amazon, he took it public with an initial public offering (IPO). In response to critical reports from Fortune and Barron's, Bezos maintained that the growth of the Internet would overtake competition from larger book retailers such as Borders and Barnes & Noble.

In 1998, Bezos diversified into the online sale of music and video; by the end of the year, he had also expanded the company's products to include a variety of consumer goods. Bezos used the $54 million raised during the company's 1997 equity offering to finance aggressive acquisition of smaller competitors. In 2000, Bezos borrowed $2 billion from banks, as its cash balances dipped to only $350 million. In 2002, Bezos led Amazon to launch Amazon Web Services, which compiled data from weather channels and website traffic. In late 2002, rapid spending from Amazon caused it financial distress when revenues stagnated. After the company nearly went bankrupt, he closed distribution centers and laid off 14% of the Amazon workforce. In 2003, Amazon rebounded from financial instability and turned a profit of $400 million. In November 2007, Bezos launched the Amazon Kindle. According to a 2008 Time profile, Bezos wished to create the same flow state found in video game simulations in books; he wished readers would fully engage with books. In 2013, Bezos secured a $600 million contract with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on behalf of Amazon Web Services. In October that year, Amazon was recognized as the largest online shopping retailer in the world.

In May 2016, Bezos sold slightly more than one million shares of his holdings in the company for $671 million, the largest sum he had ever raised from selling some of his Amazon stock. On August 4, 2016, Bezos sold another million of his shares for $756.7 million. A year later, Bezos took on 130,000 new employees when he ramped up hiring at company distribution centers. By January 19, 2018, his Amazon stock holdings had appreciated to slightly over $109 billion; months later he began to sell stock to raise cash for other enterprises, in particular, Blue Origin. On January 29, 2018, he was featured in Amazon's Super Bowl commercial. On February 1, 2018, Amazon reported its highest ever profit with quarterly earnings of $2 billion. Due to the growth of Alibaba in China, Bezos has often expressed interest in expanding Amazon into India. On July 27, 2017, Bezos momentarily became the world's wealthiest person over Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates when his estimated net worth increased to just over $90 billion. His wealth surpassed $100 billion for the first time on November 24, 2017, and he was formally designated the wealthiest person in the world by Forbes on March 6, 2018, with a net worth of $112 billion.

In March 2018, Bezos dispatched Amit Agarwal, Amazon's global senior vice president, to India with $5.5 billion to localize operations throughout the company's supply chain routes. Later in the month, U.S. President Donald Trump accused Amazon–and Bezos, specifically–of sales tax avoidance, misusing postal routes, and anti-competitive business practices. Amazon's share price fell by 9% in response to the President's negative comments; this reduced Bezos' personal wealth by $10.7 billion. Weeks later, Bezos recouped his losses when academic reports out of Stanford University indicated that Trump could do little to regulate Amazon in any meaningful way. During July 2018, a number of members of the U.S. Congress called on Bezos to detail the applications of Amazon's face recognition software, Rekognition. Additionally, statements by the Trump administration, in favor of overturning the antitrust law known as the Paramount Decree, have been predicted to help Amazon acquire the Landmark Theaters chain.

Criticism of Amazon's business practices continued in September 2018 when Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (Stop BEZOS) Act and accused Amazon of receiving corporate welfare. This followed revelations by the non-profit group New Food Economy which found that one third of Amazon workers in Arizona, and one tenth of Amazon workers in Pennsylvania and Ohio, relied on food stamps. While preparing to introduce the bill, Sanders opined: "Instead of attempting to explore Mars or go to the moon, how about Jeff Bezos pays his workers a living wage?" He later said: "Bezos could play a profound role. If he said today, nobody who is employed at Amazon will receive less than a living wage, it would send a message to every corporation in America." Sanders's efforts elicited a response from Amazon which pointed to the 130,000 jobs it created in 2017 and called the $28,446 figure for its median salary "misleading" as it included part-time workers. However, Sanders countered that the companies targeted by his proposal have placed an increased focus on part-time workers to escape benefit obligations. On October 2, 2018, Bezos announced a company-wide wage increase, which Sanders applauded. The American workers who were being paid the minimum wage had this increased to $15 per hour – a decision that was interpreted as support for the Fight for $15 movement.

Blue Origin

In September 2000, Bezos founded Blue Origin, a human spaceflight startup company. Bezos has long expressed an interest in space travel and the development of human life in the solar system. He was the valedictorian when he graduated from high school in 1982. His speech was followed up with a Miami Herald interview in which he expressed an interest to build and develop hotels, amusement parks, and colonies for human beings who were in orbit. The 18-year-old Bezos stated that he wanted to preserve Earth from overuse through resource depletion.

After its founding, Blue Origin maintained a low profile until 2006, when it purchased a large tract of land in West Texas for a launch and test facility. After the company gained the public's attention during the late 2000s, Bezos additionally indicated his interest in reducing the cost of space travel for humans while also increasing the safety of extraterrestrial travel. In September 2011, one of the company's unmanned prototype vehicles crashed during a short-hop test flight. Although the crash was viewed as a setback, news outlets noted how far the company went from its founding-to-date in advancing spaceflight. In May 2013, Bezos met with Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Galactic, to discuss commercial spaceflight opportunities and strategies. He has been compared to Branson and Elon Musk as all three are billionaires who prioritize spaceflight among their business interests.

In 2015, Bezos announced that a new orbital launch vehicle was under development and would make its first flight in the late-2010s. Later in November, Blue Origin's New Shepard space vehicle successfully rocketed into space and reached its planned test altitude of 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) before executing a vertical landing back at the launch site in West Texas. In 2016, Bezos allowed select journalists to visit, tour, and photograph his facility. He has repeatedly called for increased inter-space energy and industrial manufacturing to decrease the negative costs associated with business-related pollution.

In December 2017, New Shepard successfully flew and landed dummy passengers, amending and pushing its human space travel start date into late 2018. To execute this program, Blue Origin built six of the vehicles to support all phases of testing and operations: no-passenger test flights, flights with test passengers, and commercial-passenger weekly operations. Since 2016, Bezos has spoken more freely about his hopes to colonize the solar system, and has been selling $1 billion in Amazon stock each year to capitalize Blue Origin in an effort to support this endeavor. In May 2018, Bezos maintained that the primary goal of Blue Origin is to preserve the natural resources of Earth by making the human species multi-planetary. He announced that New Shepard would begin transporting humans into sub-orbital space by November 2018. In July 2018, it was announced that Bezos had priced commercial spaceflight tickets from $200,000 to $300,000 per person.

The Washington Post

On August 5, 2013, Bezos announced his purchase of The Washington Post for $250 million in cash. To execute the sale, he established Nash Holdings, a limited liability holding company that legally owns the paper. The sale closed on October 1, 2013, and Nash Holdings took control. In March 2014, Bezos made his first significant change at The Washington Post and lifted the online paywall for subscribers of a number of U.S. local newspapers in Texas, Hawaii, and Minnesota. In January 2016, Bezos set out to reinvent the newspaper as a media and technology company by reconstructing its digital media, mobile platforms, and analytics software. Throughout the early years of ownership, Bezos was accused of having a potential conflict of interest with the paper. Bezos and the newspaper's editorial board have dismissed accusations that he unfairly controlled the paper's content and Bezos maintains the paper's independence. After a surge in online readership in 2016, the paper was profitable for the first time since Bezos made the purchase in 2013.

Bezos Expeditions

Bezos makes personal investments through his venture capital vehicle, Bezos Expeditions. He was one of the first shareholders in Google, when he invested $250,000 in 1998. That $250,000 investment resulted in 3.3 million shares of Google stock, worth about $3.1 billion in 2017. He also invested in Unity Biotechnology, a life-extension research firm hoping to slow or stop the process of aging. Bezos is involved in the healthcare sector, which includes investments in Unity Biotechnology, Grail, Juno Therapeutics, and ZocDoc. In January 2018, an announcement was made concerning Bezos' role within a new, unnamed healthcare company. This venture, later named Haven, is expected to be a partnership between Amazon, JPMorgan, and Berkshire Hathaway.

Bezos also supports philanthropic efforts through direct donations and non-profit projects funded by Bezos Expeditions. Bezos used Bezos Expeditions to fund several philanthropic projects, including an Innovation center at the Seattle Museum of History and Industry and the Bezos Center for Neural Circuit Dynamics at Princeton Neuroscience Institute. In 2013, Bezos Expeditions funded the recovery of two Saturn V first-stage Rocketdyne F-1 engines from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. They were positively identified as belonging to the Apollo 11 mission's S-1C stage from July 1969. The engine is currently on display at the Seattle Museum of Flight.

Public image

Journalist Nellie Bowles of The New York Times has described the public persona and personality of Bezos as that of "a brilliant but mysterious and coldblooded corporate titan". During the 1990s, Bezos earned a reputation for relentlessly pushing Amazon forward, often at the expense of public charity and social welfare. His business practices projected a public image of prudence and parsimony with his own wealth and that of Amazon. Bezos was a multi-billionaire who hung his clothes on a rack in his Amazon headquarters office and drove a 1996 Honda Accord. Throughout the early 2000s, he was perceived to be geeky or nerdy.

Bezos was seen by some as needlessly quantitative and data-driven. This perception was detailed by Alan Deutschman who described him as "talking in lists" and "[enumerating] the criteria, in order of importance, for every decision he has made." Select accounts of his persona have drawn controversy and public attention. Notably, journalist Brad Stone wrote an unauthorized book that described Bezos as a demanding boss as well as hyper-competitive. Bezos has been characterized as a notoriously opportunistic CEO who operates with little concern for obstacles and externalities.

During the early 2010s, Bezos solidified his reputation for aggressive business practices, and his public image began to shift. Bezos started to wear tailored clothing; he weight trained, pursued a regimented diet and began to freely spend his money. His physical transformation has been compared to the transformation of Amazon; he is often referred to as the metonym of the company. His physical appearance increased the public's perception of him as a symbolically dominant figure in business and in popular culture, wherein he has been parodied as an enterprising super villain. Since 2017, he has been portrayed by Kyle Mooney and Steve Carell on Saturday Night Live, usually as an undercutting, domineering figure. Bezos eats exotic foods, such as octopus and roasted iguana. In May 2014, the International Trade Union Confederation named Bezos the "World's Worst Boss", with its general secretary Sharan Burrow saying: "Jeff Bezos represents the inhumanity of employers who are promoting the North American corporate model." During the late 2010s, Bezos reversed his reputation for being reluctant to spend money on non-business-related expenses. His relative lack of philanthropy compared to other billionaires has drawn a negative response from the public since 2016. Bezos has been known to publicly contest claims made in critical articles, as exemplified in 2015 when he sent a memo to employees denouncing a New York Times piece.

Leadership style

"Day 1" Management Philosophy
Day 1: start up
Day 2: stasis
Day 3: irrelevance
Day 4: "excruciating, painful decline"
Day 5: death

Bezos has stated "it is always Day 1" to describe his growth mindset.

Bezos used what he called a "regret-minimization framework" while he worked at D. E. Shaw and again during the early years of Amazon. He described this life philosophy by stating: "When I'm 80, am I going to regret leaving Wall Street? No. Will I regret missing the beginning of the Internet? Yes." During the 1990s and early 2000s at Amazon, he was characterized as trying to quantify all aspects of running the company, often listing employees on spreadsheets and basing executive decisions on data. To push Amazon forward, Bezos developed the mantra "Get Big Fast", which spoke to the company's need to scale its operations and establish market dominance. He favored diverting Amazon profits back into the company in lieu of allocating it amongst shareholders in the form of dividends.

Bezos uses the term "work–life harmony" instead of the more standard work–life balance because he believes balance implies that you can have one and not the other. He believes that work and home life are interconnected, informing and calibrating each other. Journalist Walt Mossberg dubbed the idea that someone who cannot tolerate criticism or critique shouldn't do anything new or interesting, "The Bezos Principle". Bezos does not schedule early morning meetings and enforces a two-pizza rule–a preference for meetings to be small enough to where two pizzas can feed everyone in the board room. When interviewing candidates for jobs at Amazon he has stated he considers three inquiries: can he admire the person, can the person raise the common standard, and under what circumstances could the person become exemplary.

He meets with Amazon investors for a total of only six hours a year. Instead of using PowerPoints, Bezos requires high-level employees to present information with six-page narratives. Starting in 1998, Bezos publishes an annual letter for Amazon shareholders wherein he frequently refers to five principles: focus on customers not competitors, take risks for market leadership, facilitate staff morale, build a company culture, and empower people. Bezos maintains the email address "[email protected]" as an outlet for customers to reach out to him and the company. Although he does not respond to the emails, he forwards some of them with a question mark in the subject line to executives who attempt to address the issues. Bezos has cited Warren Buffett (of Berkshire Hathaway), Jamie Dimon (of JPMorgan Chase), and Bob Iger (of Walt Disney) as major influences on his leadership style.

Recognition

  • In 1999, Bezos received his first major award when Time named him Person of the Year.
  • In 2008, he was selected by U.S. News & World Report as one of America's best leaders.
  • Bezos was awarded an honorary doctorate in science and technology from Carnegie Mellon University in 2008.
  • In 2011, The Economist gave Bezos and Gregg Zehr an Innovation Award for the Amazon Kindle.
  • In 2012, Bezos was named Businessperson of the Year by Fortune.
  • He is also a member of the Bilderberg Group and attended the 2011 Bilderberg conference in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and the 2013 conference in Watford, Hertfordshire, England. He was a member of the Executive Committee of The Business Council for 2011 and 2012.
  • In 2014, he was ranked the best-performing CEO in the world by Harvard Business Review.
  • He has also figured in Fortune's list of 50 great leaders of the world for three straight years, topping the list in 2015.
  • In September 2016, Bezos received a $250,000 prize for winning the Heinlein Prize for Advances in Space Commercialization, which he donated to the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.
  • In February 2018, Bezos was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for "leadership and innovation in space exploration, autonomous systems, and building a commercial pathway for human space flight".
  • In March 2018, at the Explorers Club annual dinner, he was awarded the Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award in recognition of his work with Blue Origin.
  • He received Germany's 2018 Axel Springer Award for Business Innovation and Social Responsibility. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in their 2018 listing.

Wealth

Annual estimates of Jeff Bezos' net worth
Year Billions Change Year Billions Change
1999 10.1 Steady 0.0% 2009 6.8 Decrease 17.7%
2000 6.1 Decrease 40.5% 2010 12.6 Increase 85.2%
2001 2.0 Decrease 66.6% 2011 18.1 Increase 43.6%
2002 1.5 Decrease 25.0% 2012 23.2 Increase 28.2%
2003 2.5 Increase 66.6% 2013 28.9 Increase 24.5%
2004 5.1 Increase 104.0% 2014 30.5 Increase 5.5%
2005 4.1 Decrease 5.8% 2015 50.3 Increase 60.9%
2006 4.3 Decrease 10.4% 2016 45.2 Decrease 10.1%
2007 8.7 Increase 102.3% 2017 72.8 Increase 61.6%
2008 8.2 Decrease 5.7% 2018 112.0 Increase 53.8%
Main data source: Forbes World's Billionaires Estimates
Additional reference(s): Bloomberg Billionaires Index

Bezos first became a millionaire in 1997 after raising $54 million through Amazon's initial public offering (IPO). He was first included on the Forbes World's Billionaires list in 1999 with a registered net worth of $10.1 billion. His net worth decreased to $6.1 billion a year later, a 40.5% drop. His wealth plummeted even more the following year, dropping 66.6% to $2.0 billion. He lost $500 million the following year, which brought his net worth down to $1.5 billion. The following year, his net worth increased by 104% to $2.5 billion. From 2005 to 2007, he quadrupled his net worth to $8.7 billion. After the financial crisis and succeeding economic recession, his net worth would erode to $6.8 billion—a 17.7% drop. His wealth rose by 85.2% in 2010, leaving him with $12.6 billion. This percentage increase ascended him to the 43rd spot on the ranking from 68th.

After a rumor broke out that Amazon was developing a smartphone, Bezos' net worth rose to $30.5 billion in 2014. A year later, Bezos entered the top ten when he increased his net worth to a total of $50.3 billion. Bezos rose to be the 5th richest person in the world hours before market close; he gained $7 billion in one hour. By the time the Forbes list was calculated in March 2016, his net worth was registered at $45.2 billion. However, just months later in October 2016, his wealth increased by $16.2 billion to $66.5 billion unofficially ranking him the third richest person in the world behind Warren Buffett. After sporadic jumps in Amazon's share price, in July 2017 he briefly unseated Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates as the wealthiest person in the world.

The net worth of Jeff Bezos from 1999 to 2018 as estimated by Forbes magazine, in the nominal U.S. dollar. His net worth is calculated in the billions by March of each year.

Bezos would continue to sporadically surpass Gates throughout the month of October 2017 after Amazon's share price fluctuated. His net worth surpassed $100 billion for the first time on November 24, 2017, after Amazon's share price increased by more than 2.5%. When the 2017 list was issued, Bezos' net worth was registered at $72.8 billion, adding $27.6 billion from the previous year. Bezos was officially ranked as the third wealthiest person in the world up from the 5th spot in 2016. His wealth's rapid growth from 2016 to 2017 sparked a variety of assessments about how much money Bezos earned on a controlled, reduced time scale. On October 10, 2017, he made an estimated $6.24 billion in 5 minutes, slightly less than the annual Gross Domestic Product of Kyrgyzstan.

On March 6, 2018, Bezos was officially designated the wealthiest person in the world with a registered net worth of $112 billion. He unseated Bill Gates ($90 billion) who was $6 billion ahead of Warren Buffett ($84 billion), ranked third. He is considered the first registered centi-billionaire (not adjusted for inflation).

His wealth, in 2017–18 terms, equaled that of 2.7 million Americans. Bezos' net worth increased by $33.6 billion from January 2017 to January 2018. This increase outstripped the economic development (in GDP terms) of more than 96 countries around the world. During March 9, Bezos earned $230,000 every 60 seconds. The Motley Fool estimated that if Bezos had not sold any of his shares from its original public offering in 1997, his net worth would sit at $181 billion in 2018. According to Quartz, his net worth of $150 billion in July 2018 was enough to purchase the entire stock markets of Nigeria, Hungary, Egypt, Luxembourg, and Iran. Following the report by Quartz, Amazon workers in Poland, (Germany), and Spain participated in demonstrations and labor strikes to draw attention to his growing wealth and the lack of compensation, labor rights, and satisfactory working conditions of select Amazon workers. On July 17, 2018 he was designated the "wealthiest person in modern history" by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Fortune, MarketWatch, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes.

In 2019, Bezos's wealth was reduced by his divorce with his wife MacKenzie Bezos. According to Forbes, had the Washington state common law applied to their divorce without a prenuptial agreement, Bezos' wealth could have been equitably divided with his ex-wife, however she eventually received 25% of Bezos's Amazon shares, valued at approximately $36 billion, making her the third richest woman in the world. Bezos retained his interest in The Washington Post and Blue Origin, as well as voting control of the shares received by his ex-wife.

In June 2019, Bezos purchased three adjoining apartments overlooking Madison Square Park in Manhattan, including a penthouse, for a combined total of US$80 million, making this one of the most expensive real estate purchases within New York City in 2019.

In February 2020, Bezos purchased the Warner Estate from David Geffen for $165 (£126 ) million. This marks a record high price paid for a residence in the Los Angeles area. The previous record high price of $150 million was paid by Lachlan Murdoch.

Personal life

In 1992, Bezos was working for D. E. Shaw in Manhattan when he met novelist MacKenzie Tuttle, who was a research associate at the firm; the couple married a year later. In 1994, they moved across the country to Seattle, Washington, where Bezos founded Amazon. He and his ex-wife MacKenzie are the parents of four children: three sons, and one daughter adopted from China.

In March 2003, Bezos was one of three passengers in a helicopter that crashed in West Texas after the craft's tail boom hit a tree. Bezos sustained minor injuries and was discharged from a local hospital the same day.

In 2016, Bezos played a Starfleet official in the movie Star Trek Beyond, and joined the cast and crew at a San Diego Comic-Con screening. He had lobbied Paramount for the role and apropos of Alexa and his personal/professional interest in speech recognition his one line consisted of a response to an alien in distress: "Speak Normally." In his initial discussion of the project which became Alexa with his technical advisor Greg Hart in 2011, Bezos told him that the goal was to create "the Star Trek computer."

On January 9, 2019, Bezos and his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie, announced on Twitter their intent to divorce after a "long period" of separation. On April 4, 2019, the divorce was finalized, with Bezos keeping 75% of the couple's Amazon stock and MacKenzie getting the remaining 25% ($35.6 billion) in Amazon stock. However, Bezos would keep all of the couple's voting rights.

On February 7, 2019, Bezos published an online essay in which he accused American Media, Inc. owner David Pecker of "extortion and blackmail" for threatening to publish intimate photos of Bezos and Lauren Sánchez, if he did not stop his investigation into how his text messages and other photos had been leaked to the National Enquirer.

Politics

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi presenting the USIBC Global Leadership Award to Bezos, in Washington, D.C. on June 7, 2016

According to public campaign finance records, Bezos supported the electoral campaigns of Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, two Democratic U.S. senators from Washington. He has also supported U.S. representative John Conyers, as well as Patrick Leahy and Spencer Abraham, U.S. senators serving on committees dealing with Internet-related issues. Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos have supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, and in 2012 contributed $2.5 million to Washington United for Marriage, a group supporting a yes vote on Washington Referendum 74, which affirmed a same-sex marriage law enacted in the state. Bezos donated $100,000 towards a movement against a Washington state income tax in 2010 for "top earners." In 2012, he donated to Amazon's political action committee (PAC), which has given $56,000 and $74,500 to Democrats and Republicans, respectively.

After the 2016 presidential election, Bezos was invited to join Donald Trump's Defense Innovation Advisory Board, an advisory council to improve the technology used by the Defense Department. Bezos declined the offer without further comment. Trump has repeatedly attacked Bezos via Twitter, accused Bezos of avoiding corporate taxes, gaining undue political influence, and undermining his presidency by spreading "fake news." Bezos has repeatedly joked about using his rocket company to send Donald Trump into outer space.

In 2014, Amazon won a bid for a cloud computing contract with the CIA valued at $600 million. A 2018, $10 billion contract known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project, this time with the Pentagon, was allegedly written up in a way that favors Amazon. Controversy over this was raised when General James Mattis accepted a headquarters tour invitation from Bezos and co-ordinated the deal through Sally Donnelly, a lobbyist who previously worked for Amazon. In November 2019, when the contract was awarded to Microsoft instead, Amazon filed a lawsuit with allegations that the bidding process was biased. Despite Bezos' support for an open borders policy towards immigrants, Amazon has actively marketed facial recognition software to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In 2019, a political action committee linked to Bezos spent over $1 million in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat activist Kshama Sawant in Seattle's city council election.

Saudi hacking claim

In March 2018, Bezos met in Seattle with Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, to discuss investment opportunities for Saudi Vision 2030. In March 2019, Bezos' security consultant accused the Saudi government of hacking Bezos' phone. According to BBC, Bezos' top security staffer, Gavin de Becker, "linked the hack to the Washington Post's coverage of the murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul." Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and dissident was employed as a writer at the Washington Post, owned by Bezos. Khashoggi was killed in late 2018, in Turkey’s Saudi consulate for his critical stance and journalism against the Saudi government and its leader.

On January 2020, The Guardian reported that hack was initiated before the murder but after Khashoggi wrote critically about the crown prince in the Washington Post. Forensic analysis of Bezos' mobile phone conducted by advisory firm FTI Consulting, concluded it "highly probable" that the hack was achieved using a malicious file hidden in a video sent in a WhatsApp message to Bezos from the personal account of the crown prince on 1 May 2018. Saudi Arabia has denied the claim.

Philanthropy

Bezos donated to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center several times between 2009 and 2017. In 2013, he pledged $500,000 to Worldreader, a non-profit founded by a former Amazon employee.

In September 2018, Business Insider reported that Bezos was the only one of the top five billionaires in the world who had not signed the Giving Pledge, an initiative created by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett that encourage wealthy people to give away their wealth. That same month, philanthropy expert Janet Camarena, director of transparency initiatives at Foundation Center, was quoted by CNBC as having questions about Bezos’ new fund, including the fund's structure and how exactly it will be funded.

On May 23, 2017, Bezos gave $1 million to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which provides pro bono legal services for American journalists. On June 15, 2017, he posted a message on Twitter asking for ideas for philanthropy: "I'm thinking about a philanthropy strategy that is the opposite of how I mostly spend my time—working on the long term". At the time of the post, Bezos' lifetime spending on charitable causes was estimated to be $100 million. Multiple journalists responded by asking Bezos to pay higher wages to Amazon warehouse workers. A year later in June, he tweeted that he would announce two philanthropic foci by the end of summer 2018. Bezos announced in September 2018 that he would commit approximately $2 billion to a fund to deal with American homelessness and establish a network of non-profit preschools for low income communities. As part of this announcement, he committed to establishing the "Day 1 Families Fund" to finance "night shelters and day care centers for homeless families" and the "Day 1 Academies Fund" for early childhood education.

In January 2018, Bezos made a $33 million donation to TheDream.US, a college scholarship fund for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors. In June 2018, Bezos donated to Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a private philanthropic fund founded by Bill Gates aimed at promoting emissions-free energy. In September 2018, Bezos donated $10 million to With Honor, a nonpartisan organization that works to increase the number of veterans in political office.

Sources

  • Robinson, Tom (2010). Jeff Bezos: Amazon.com Architect. ABDO Publishing. ISBN 9781604537598.
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https://www.forbes.com/profile/jeff-bezos
https://www.businessinsider.com/jeff-bezos-mackenzie-bezos-divorce-finalized-2019-4
https://web.archive.org/web/20200212194904/https://www.businessinsider.com/jeff-bezos-mackenzie-bezos-divorce-finalized-2019-4
https://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/national/jeff-bezos-pronounces-his-name/2013/08/07/c6992b0a-ffa9-11e2-96a8-d3b921c0924a_video.html
https://www.forbes.com/sites/kerryadolan/2019/03/04/this-is-the-richest-person-in-the-world/
https://www.analyticsinsight.net/unveiling-business-strategy-amazon21065-2/
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/23/livestream-jeff-bezos-blue-origin-launches-experiments-for-nasa.html
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/15/business/media/jeff-bezos-amazon-rich-charity.html
//www.worldcat.org/issn/0362-4331
http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/morning_call/2015/08/jeff-bezos-just-sold-534-million-worth-of-amazon.html
https://www.dallasnews.com/business/retail/2017/09/07/amazoncoms-jeff-bezos-big-roots-intexas-give-state-edge
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