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Bezos in January 2018
Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen|
January 12, 1964
Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.
|Alma mater||Princeton University|
|Known for||Founding Amazon and Blue Origin|
|Net worth||US$147.3 billion (October 2018)|
|Title||Chairman, CEO and President of Amazon|
Jeffrey Preston Bezos (//;[a] né Jorgensen; January 12, 1964) is an American technology entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. He is best known as the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Amazon.
Bezos was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and raised in Houston, Texas. He graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. He worked on Wall Street in a variety of related fields from 1986 to early 1994. He founded 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 expanded to a variety of products and services, including video and audio streaming. It is currently the world's largest online sales company, as well as the world's largest provider of cloud infrastructure services via its Amazon Web Services arm.
Bezos added to his business interests when he founded aerospace company Blue Origin in 2000. A Blue Origin test flight successfully first reached space in 2015 and Blue has plans to begin commercial suborbital human spaceflight as early as late 2018. He purchased The Washington Post in 2013 for US$250 million in cash. Bezos manages other business investments through his venture capital fund, Bezos Expeditions.
On July 27, 2017, he became the world's wealthiest person when his estimated net worth increased to just over $90 billion. His wealth surpassed $100 billion for the first time on November 24, he was formally designated the wealthiest person in the world by Forbes on March 6, 2018 with a net worth of $112 billion. The first centi-billionaire on the Forbes wealth index, he was designated the "wealthiest person in modern history" after his net worth increased to $150 billion in July 2018.
Bezos was born Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen on January 12, 1964, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the son of Jacklyn Gise Jorgensen and Chicago native 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 was the maternal grandson of 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 grow it from 25,000 acres (101 km2; 39 sq mi) to 300,000 acres (1,214 km2; 469 sq mi). 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 where he received a Silver Knight Award in 1982. He was high school valedictorian and a National Merit Scholar. In 1986, he graduated from Princeton University with a 4.2 grade point average and Bachelor of Science degrees in electrical engineering and computer science and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. While at Princeton, he was also elected to Tau Beta Pi and was the president of the Princeton chapter of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.
After Bezos graduated from Princeton in 1987, he was offered jobs at Intel, Bell Labs, and Andersen Consulting, among others. He first worked at Fitel, a financial 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, in 1990 and worked there until 1994. Bezos became D. E. Shaw's fourth senior vice-president at the age of 30.
In late 1993, Bezos decided to start 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 trip from New York to Seattle. Bezos named his new company "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 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. In 2000, Bezos borrowed $2 billion from banks, as its cash balances dipped to only $350 million. 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, 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.
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's 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.
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, in 2013 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.
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 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's role within a new, unnamed healthcare company. This venture is expected to be a partnership between Amazon, JPMorgan, and Berkshire Hathaway.
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, often wearing ill-fitting clothing and making a variety of social missteps.
Bezos was seen by the public 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. Studies involving former Amazon employees have noted interactions with Bezos as Darwinian in nature but praised the dynamic for maintaining a well-run company. Bezos has been stereotyped as a notoriously opportunistic CEO who operates with little concern for obstacles and externalities. This depiction has been challenged by Bezos himself, his wife, Amazon employees, and the public as a mischaracterization.
During the early 2010s, Bezos solidified his reputation for imperialistic 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. Bezos eats exotic foods, such as breakfast octopus and roasted iguana. 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 billionaries, has drawn a negative response from the public since 2016.
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 morality, build a company culture, and empower people. Bezos maintains the email address "[email protected]amazon.com" 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.
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, 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.
|Annual estimates of Jeff Bezos's net worth[b]|
Bezos first became a millionaire in 1997 after raising $54 million through Amazon's initial public offering (IPO). He was first included on Forbes The 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 $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's 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.
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's 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).[c]
His wealth, in 2017–18 terms, equaled that of 2.7 million Americans. Bezos's 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 awareness 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"[d] by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Fortune, MarketWatch, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes.
In 1992, Bezos was working for D. E. Shaw in Manhattan, New York, when he met novelist MacKenzie Tuttle, who was a research associate at the firm; they were married a year later. In 1994, they moved across the country to Seattle, Washington, where Bezos founded Amazon. He and his wife 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.
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. Bezos and his wife support 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 higher Washington state income tax in 2010. 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.
Bezos supports his philanthropic efforts through direct donations, non-profit projects funded by Bezos Expeditions, and other charitable organizations. Through Bezos Expeditions, he has funded the Bezos Center for Innovation at the Seattle Museum of History and Industry for $10 million and Bezos Center for Neural Circuit Dynamics at Princeton Neuroscience Institute for $15 million. He has donated multiple times to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: $10 million in 2009, $20 million in 2010, $15 million in 2011, and $35 million in 2017. He also donated $800,000 to Worldreader, a non-profit, founded by a former Amazon employee. In 2015, he 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 in July 2013. The engine is currently on display at the Seattle Museum of Flight.
On May 23, 2017, he gave $1 million to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the largest single gift received by the organization. The committee provides pro bono legal services to protect the rights of American journalists. In an interview at the George W. Bush Presidential Center later that month, Bezos voiced his attraction to engaging in strategic philanthropy to address systemic inequalities rather than outright charity. On June 15, 2017, he sent 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". A year later in June, he Tweeted that he would announce two philanthropic focuses by the end of Summer 2018. An analysis of all 50,000 comments on the post concluded four areas of interest for Bezos' upcoming philanthropy: health care, education, workplace rights, and environmentalism.
In January 2018, he made a $33 million donation to TheDream.US, a college scholarship fund for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States when they were minors. In June 2018, Bezos donated to Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a private philanthropic coalition aimed at promoting emissions-free energy. Bezos announced in September 2018 that he would deploy approximately $2 billion to a fund tasked with alleviating American homelessness and establishing a network of non-profit preschools for low income communities. He established 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.
[Forbes real time net worths] are calculated from locked in stock prices and exchange rates from around the globe.... as well as the vetting of personal balance sheets...
Mr Bezos's willingness to take a long-term view also explains his fascination with space travel, and his decision to found a secretive company called Blue Origin, one of several start-ups now building spacecraft with private funding.
Bezos: I want to change the whole cost structure of accessing space.
I have firsthand knowledge of many of the events. I worked for Jeff (Bezos) at D. E. Shaw
Mental incapacity issues are a very hard-to-cure problem, serious drug addiction, a very hard-to-cure problem, but there's another bucket of homelessness which is transient homelessness, which is a woman with kids, the father runs away, and he was the only person providing any income and they have no support system, they have no family. That's transient homelessness. You can really help that person. And you by the way, only need to help them for like six to nine months, you get them trained, you get them a job, they're perfectly productive members of society.
We are committed to doing our part and filling this capital need by coming together in a new coalition. We will form a network of private capital committed to building a structure that will allow informed decisions to help accelerate the change to the advanced energy future our planet needs. Success requires a partnership of increased government research, with a transparent and workable structure to objectively evaluate those projects, and committed private-sector investors willing to support the innovative ideas that come out of the public research pipeline.
| World's richest person