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Jeff Bezos

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Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos 2016.jpg
Bezos in 2016
Born Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen
(1964-01-12) January 12, 1964 (age 54)
Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.
Alma mater Princeton University
  • Technology entrepreneur
  • investor
  • philanthropist
Known for Amazon and Blue Origin
Net worth US$130.8 billion[1] (2018)
Spouse(s) MacKenzie Bezos (m. 1993)[2]
Children 4[3]

Jeffrey Preston Bezos (/ˈbzs/;[4] Jorgensen; born January 12, 1964) is an American technology entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist, best known as the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Amazon, the world's largest online shopping retailer.

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 went on to work 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 Internet merchant of books and expanded to a wide variety of products and services, most recently video and audio streaming. It is currently the world's largest Internet sales online company, as well as the world's largest provider of cloud infrastructure services via its Amazon Web Services arm.

Bezos diversified his business interests when he founded aerospace company Blue Origin in 2000. Blue Origin started test flights to space in 2015 and plans for commercial suborbital human spaceflight beginning in 2018. He purchased The Washington Post newspaper in 2013 for US$250 million in cash. Bezos also has a number of other business investments that are managed through Bezos Expeditions.

On July 27, 2017, he briefly became the world's wealthiest person when he accumulated an estimated net worth of just over $90 billion. His wealth surpassed $100 billion for the first time on November 24 after Amazon's share price increased by more than 2.5%. He was formally designated the wealthiest person in the world on March 6, 2018 with a registered net worth of $112 billion by Forbes, becoming the first centi-billionaire.[5] As of March 21, 2018, he has an estimated net worth of $130.8 billion,[6] and is contended to be on track[a] to become the wealthiest person in contemporary history.[8][9][10]

Early life and education

Jeff Bezos was born on January 12, 1964, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to a teenage mother, Jacklyn Gise Jorgensen, and father Ted Jorgensen, a Chicago native.[11][12] His mother was seventeen years old and still in high school at the time of his birth.[13] After her nearly one-year marriage to Jorgensen ended, she married her second husband, Miguel "Mike" Bezos.[14] Mike was a Cuban immigrant who moved to the U.S. aged 15.[15] Shortly after the wedding, Mike Bezos adopted 4-year-old Jorgensen, whose surname was then changed to Bezos in April 1968.[16] They moved to Houston where Mike worked as an engineer for Exxon, after receiving a degree from the University of New Mexico.[17] Bezos attended River Oaks Elementary School in Houston from fourth to sixth grade.[15] His maternal ancestors were settlers who lived in Texas and over the generations acquired a 25,000-acre (101 km2 or 39 miles2) ranch near Cotulla, Texas.[14] In later life Bezos grew this land to a 300,000-acre (1,214 km2 or 468 miles2) ranch complex.[18][19] Bezos' maternal grandfather was Lawrence Preston Gise, a regional director of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in Albuquerque.[20] Gise retired early to the ranch, where Bezos spent many summers as a youth, working with him.[17] Bezos' maternal grandmother was Mattie Louise Gise (née Strait), through whom he is a cousin of country singer George Strait.[21]

Bezos often displayed scientific interests and technological proficiency; he once rigged an electric alarm to keep his younger siblings out of his room.[22][23] The family moved to Miami, Florida, where he attended Miami Palmetto High School.[24][25] While in high school, he attended the Student Science Training Program at the University of Florida, receiving a Silver Knight Award in 1982.[26] He was high school valedictorian and a National Merit Scholar.[26][27] In 1986, Bezos graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University with Bachelor of Science degrees in electrical engineering and computer science with a 4.2 grade point average.[28][29] While at Princeton, he was elected to Tau Beta Pi and served as the president of the Princeton chapter of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.[30][31]

Business career

Early career

After graduating from Princeton, he was offered employment contracts with Intel, Bell Labs, and Andersen Consulting.[32] He opted to work at a start-up company called Fitel. Hired as its 11th employee, he was tasked with building a network for international trade.[33] The company wished to build a "worldwide telecommunications network for trading firms" that assisted them in clearing and settling "cross-border equity transactions".[34] His background in computer programming had him quickly promoted to head of development and director of customer service.[34] As the head of development, he traveled on a weekly basis from New York to London.[34] After spending unfruitful two years at the company, he left to take up a job in the banking industry. He reflected on his time at Fitel as a lesson in how not to "organize a start-up company".[34] He was hired as a product manager at Bankers Trust months later.[34] After working at Bankers Trust from 1988 to 1990, he began searching for a technology-related field.[34] During the late 1980s, a new hedge fund was founded by computer scientist David E. Shaw called D. E. Shaw & Co.[34] The job blended technology and finance in a way that was attractive to Bezos.[34] Aged 26, he was hired by Shaw to work on Internet-enabled business opportunities at the fund.[32] Bezos noted meeting Shaw as a good experience; he cited Shaw as "artistic, articulate, and analytical".[34] From 1990 to 1994, he worked at the fund eventually rising to serve as the fourth senior vice president.[34] Bezos' work primarily dealt with "exploring new business opportunities in the burgeoning world of the Internet".[34]


Bezos (center) at a cooperative for robotics in 2005

After Bezos heard of "rapid growth in Internet use" during late 1993, he decided to found an online book depository that primarily dealt in exchange and marketing.[35] Upon reflection Bezos said: "When I'm 80, am I going to regret leaving Wall Street? No. Will I regret missing the beginning of the Internet? Yes."[34] During this rapid growth, a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling exempted mail order companies from collecting sales taxes in states where they lack a physical presence. He left his high paying job at D. E. Shaw & Co. to set up his new company. When he told his boss that he wanted to start an Internet bookstore, Shaw replied that it was a "pretty good idea" but "a better idea for someone who didn't have a good job."[36] He founded Amazon on July 5, 1994, after making a cross-country drive from New York to Seattle, writing up its business plan on the way.[37] Early manifestations of the company were set up in Bezos' garage in Seattle.[38] Bezos chose the name "Amazon" because its began with the first letter of the alphabet and was associated with the Amazon River in South America.[39] He withdrew an estimated $300,000 from his retirement savings and invested in Amazon. During the early years at Amazon, he gained a reputation for being a "happy-go-lucky mogul" and simultaneously a "notorious micromanager [...] an executive who wants to know about everything from contract minutiae to how he is quoted in all Amazon press releases."[38] Although Amazon was just an online bookstore, he had always envisioned it going "broader than books".[34] During its early years, there was initial rejection of Amazon by the public because it was so specifically geared toward the selling of books, however, Bezos argued that it was a technology company "whose business was simplifying online transactions for consumers".[39] Three years after Bezos founded Amazon, he moved to take it public with an initial public offering (IPO) of $18.00/share in May 1997.[40] He warned many investors that there was a 70% chance of failure.[41] After a couple of years of modest performance the stocks price began to lag behind competitors and fall below the predictions of Wall Street. In 1999, financial reporters took to calling Amazon "Amazon.bomb" for its poor stock performance.[42] Bezos was the target of many of these reports because his "charisma" could not "triumph over a slew of new competitors who have deep pockets and new technologies".[42][43] In response to reporters from Fortune and Barron's, Bezos maintained that the growth of the internet would overtake market competition from larger retailers such as Borders Group and Barnes & Noble.[39] 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 printed the slogan on t-shirts and distributed among his employees.[39] In December 1996, it was reported that Amazon's customer base held steady at 180,000. A year later it had 1 million customers and had revenues in excess of $148 million in 1997, up from $15.7 million the year previous.[39] In 1998, Bezos advocated for enterprise diversification. He initiated the sales of music and video in early 1998, and expanded to a variety of consumer goods by late 1998.[39] Bezos used the $54 million dollars raised during its equity offering in 1997, to finance an "aggressive growth and acquisition strategy".[39] In early 2000, Amazon began hosting in-house storage for vendors which expanded customer loyalty.[39] Despite the Dot-com Bubble significantly impacting the technology market, Amazon weathered the crisis by spending heavily and focusing on building its brand rather than generating income.[44]

Bezos with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 2014.
Bezos receiving the James Smithson Bicentennial medal in 2016 for his work with Amazon

In 2002, Bezos launched Amazon Web Services which compiled data from weather channels and website traffic.[39] During this time Bezos began stressing the ideal of putting customers first instead of competitors.[45] Chris Anderson noted Amazon's business philosophy as attentive to "niche markets and customer service".[46] During late 2002, rapid spending from Amazon caused it financial distress after revenues stagnated.[47] Bezos borrowed $2 billion from select banks with only $350 million in holdings.[47] After coming "pretty close to hitting the ground", Bezos closed distribution centers and laid off 14% of the Amazon workforce.[47] In 2003, Amazon turned a profit of $400 million and Bezos gave a TED Talk entitled "The electricity metaphor for the web's future" where he detailed the events of the Dot-com Bubble.[48] In 2005, Bezos disclosed that Amazon was interested in entering the video streaming and rental business, however, his policy was that Amazon "not pre-announce what [they] might do".[46] In November 2007, Bezos launched the Amazon Kindle and announced its price of $399 to negative reaction.[49] The high sticker price reflected his belief that the Kindle served as the "iPod of reading" and separated its hardware and eBook businesses separate.[49][50] 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 "enter the author's world".[51] In 2013, Bezos secured a $600 million dollar contract with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on behalf of Amazon Web Services.[52] Later that year in October, Amazon was announced the largest online shopping retailer in the world which prompted Bezos to state: "Eighteen years ago I was trucking packages to the post office in my Chevy Blazer, I can assure you I did not expect to happen what happened".[53]

On Saturday, August 15, 2015, The New York Times published an article entitled "Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace" about Amazon's business practices.[54] Bezos responded to his employees with a Sunday memo,[55] rebutting the article's inferences that the company was "a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard", and that anyone who believed the story was true should contact him directly.[56] In May 2016, Bezos sold slightly more than one million shares of his holdings in the company for $671 million, making it the largest amount of money he had ever raised in a sale of his Amazon holdings.[57]

On August 4, 2016, he sold another million of his shares at a value of $756.7 million. On June 19, 2016, Bezos owned 83.9 million shares of Amazon stock,[58] being 16.9% of all shares outstanding, with a market value of $83.9 billion. On January 19, 2018, Amazon stock rose to $1300 per share, at which price those 83.9 million shares would be worth slightly over $109 billion, although Bezos sold stock to raise cash for other enterprises in 2016, in particular Blue Origin. On February 1, 2018, Amazon reported its highest ever profit with quarterly earnings of $2 billion. Bezos initiated wide-spread hiring sprees across company distribution centers a year previous, taking on 130,000 new employees.[59] Due to the proliferation of Alibaba in China, Bezos has continuously expressed interest in expanding Amazon across India.[60] In March 2018, Bezos dispatched Amit Agarwal, Amazon's point person to the country, with $5.5 billion to localize operations throughout their supply chain routes.[61]

Blue Origin

In September 2000, Bezos founded Blue Origin, a human spaceflight startup company.[62] His motivation to do so was a result of his fascination with space travel,[63] including an early interest in developing "space hotels, amusement parks, colonies and small cities for 2 million or 3 million people orbiting the Earth."[27] A profile published in 2013 described a 1982 Miami Herald interview he gave after he was named high school class valedictorian. The 18-year-old Bezos "said he wanted to build space hotels, amusement parks and colonies for 2 million or 3 million people who would be in orbit. 'The whole idea is to preserve the earth' he told the newspaper .... The goal was to be able to evacuate humans. The planet would become a park."[64] The company was kept secret for a few years; it became publicly known only in 2006 when it purchased a sizable aggregation of land in west Texas for a launch and test facility.[65]

Bezos giving NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver (fourth from left) a tour of Blue Origin's crew capsule.

In a 2011 interview, Bezos indicated that he wanted to enable "anybody to go into space" and stated that the company was committed to decreasing the cost and increasing the safety of spaceflight.[66] "Blue Origin is one of several start-ups aiming to open up space travel to paying customers. Like Amazon, the company is secretive, but [in September 2011] revealed that it had lost an unmanned prototype vehicle during a short-hop test flight. Although this was a setback, the announcement of the loss revealed for the first time just how far Blue Origin's team had advanced," he stated.[63] Bezos said that the crash was 'not the outcome that any of us wanted, but we're signed up for this to be hard.'"[63] In 2013, Bezos reportedly discussed commercial spaceflight opportunities and strategies with Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Galactic.[67]

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter meets with Jeff Bezos in 2016 at The Pentagon.

In 2015, Bezos announced a new orbital launch vehicle under development for late-2010s first flight. He indicated that his ambitions in space are not location dependent—Mars, Lunar, asteroidal, etc.—"we want to go everywhere, [requiring significantly lower launch costs.] Our number-one opponent is gravity. ... The vision for Blue is pretty simple. We want to see millions of people living and working in space. That's going to take a long time. I think it's a worthwhile goal."[68]

On November 23, 2015, Blue Origin's New Shepard space vehicle successfully flew to space, reaching 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, he opened up the Blue rocket design and manufacturing facility to journalists for the first time, and gave extensive interviews that included an articulation of his vision for space and for Blue Origin. Bezos sees space as being "chock full of resources" and foresees a "Great Inversion" where there will emerge "space commercialization that stretches out for hundreds of years, leading to an era when millions of people would be living and working in space." He sees both energy and heavy manufacturing occurring in space, having the effect of reduced pollution on Earth, in effect reducing the probability that something "bad happens to the Earth."[69] In March 2016, Bezos said he is interested in changing the fundamental cost structure of accessing space.[70]

Blue Origin was in an extensive flight test program of New Shepard which expects to begin carrying "test passengers" in 2017 and initiate commercial flights in 2018.[69] Blue 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.[71] In June 2016, Bezos expressed an interest in seeing nearly all heavy-industry manufacturing factories relocated to space.[72] In September, he added that he hoped to colonize the solar system.[73] In April 2017, Bezos sold about $1 billion in Amazon stock to finance expansionary projects for his rocket company.[74]

The Washington Post

On August 5, 2013, Bezos announced his purchase of The Washington Post for $250 million in cash.[75] "This is uncharted terrain", he told the newspaper, "and it will require experimentation."[75] Shortly after the announcement of intent to purchase, the paper published a long-form profile of Bezos on August 10, 2013.[64] In order to execute the sale, Bezos established Nash Holdings, a limited liability holding company that legally owns the paper.[76] The sale closed on October 1, 2013, and Nash Holdings took control.[77] He conducted no due diligence when accepting the first offer from former Washington Post owner Donald E. Graham.[78]

Although The New York Times is typically referred to as the "newspaper of record", Bezos expressed an interest in giving his paper's content for free in local American newspapers. 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.[79] In January 2016, Bezos set out to reinvent the paper as a "media and technology company" by reconstructing its digital media, mobile platforms, and analytics software.[80] Some reporters, media outlets, and politicians have expressed concern about a potential conflict of interest between Bezos and the paper.[81] Accusations of Bezos "[controlling] the Post's news coverage or [feeding] it article ideas" have been dismissed by Bezos, the editorial board, and most media outlets.[82] The paper routinely runs critical articles about Bezos and his business ventures, including one which accused Amazon of being a dangerous monopoly.[83][84] Since his purchase of the paper in 2013, the first profitable year was in 2016 after a surge in online-only readership.[84] In January 2018, the paper posted its third profitable year, doubling its digital subscriptions. Similar to early strategies undertaken at Amazon, Bezos reincorporated the paper's profit in order to expand its headquarters, grow its editorial team, and continue investing in technology.[85]

In June 2017 as editor of The Washington Post he participated in the conference "The Future Of Newspapers", hosted by John Elkann in Turin. Here he espoused his view concerning the monetization of the press:

We run Amazon and the Washington Post in a very similar way in terms of the basic approach. We attempt to be customer-centric, which in the case of the Post means reader-centric. I think you can get confused, you can be advertiser-centric — and what advertisers want, of course, is readers — and so you should be simpleminded about that and you should be focused on readers. If you can focus on readers, advertisers will come. This is not a philantrophic endeavour: I believe that a healthy newspaper, that has an independent news room, should be self-sustaining, and I think it’s achievable, we made it achievable, we achieved it![86]

Bezos Expeditions

Bezos makes personal investments through his venture capital vehicle, Bezos Expeditions. Through this vehicle, he has backed companies across a wide range of industries.[87] 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.[88][89] He also invested in Unity Biotechnology, a life-extension research firm hoping to slow or stop the process of aging.[90] Bezos is involved in the healthcare sector, which includes investments in Unity Biotechnology, Grail, Juno Therapeutics, and ZocDoc.[91] In January 2018, an announcement of Bezos' role within a new, unnamed healthcare company was released. This venture is expected to be a partnership between Amazon, J.P. Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway.[92][93]

A partial list of companies that have been funded at least in part by Bezos Expeditions include:[94][95]

Public image

Thierry Ehrmann's "Jeff Bezos" on the Abode of Chaos in Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d'Or, France.

The public persona and personality of Jeff Bezos has been described by Nellie Bowles of The New York Times as that of "a brilliant but mysterious and coldblooded corporate titan".[97] During the 1990s Bezos earned a reputation for relentlessly pushing Amazon forward often at the expense of public charity and social welfare.[97][98] He favored diverting Amazon profits back into the company in lieu of allocating it amongst shareholders.[99] His doing so projected a public image of prudence and being parsimonious with his own wealth and that of Amazon's. During a 1999 60 Minutes documentary, footage showed Bezos working on a desk that was built by repurposing a door onto four wooden blocks.[100] He was quoted as wanting to "spend money on things that matter to customers and not on things that don't".[101] While working in early manifestations of Amazon's headquarters, as a multi-billionaire, Bezos hung his clothes on a rack in his office and drove a 1996 Honda Accord. Throughout the early 2000s, he was perceived to be "geeky" often wearing ill-fitting clothing and making a variety of social missteps.[99][102][103] Many news outlets referred to him as the "nerd of Amazon",[104] "corny"[105] or "nerdy".[106] During the late 1990s, Bezos stated that he ate "a whole can" of buttered Pillsbury biscuits every morning before his wife intervened and spoke to him about nutrition.[107]

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."[99] Early profiles of him described him as tyrannical and passionate about projects he either started or managed.[108] Select accounts of his persona have drawn controversy and public attention. Notably, journalist Brad Stone wrote an unauthorized book that described Bezos as "driven and demanding" as well as hyper-competitive.[98][108] Studies involving former Amazon employees have noted interactions with Bezos as a "Darwinian struggle for survival" but praised the dynamic for maintaining a well-run company.[109] Bezos has been stereotyped as a "notoriously intense"[110] and opportunistic "go-getter" who had little concern for obstacles and externalities.[111] This depiction has been challenged by Bezos himself, his wife, Amazon employees, and the public as a mischaracterization.[112] Throughout the 2000s, he was cartooned and parodied for his socially awkward demeanor and penchant for aggressive business tactics.[103][105]

Sometime during the early 2010s, while his reputation for imperialistic business practices solidified, his public image began to shift. Bezos started to wear tailored clothing, weight trained, pursued a regimented diet and began to spend his money liberally.[113] His physical transformation has been compared to the transformation of Amazon; he is often referred to as the metonym of the company.[114] His penchant for going to the gym and healthy dieting has drawn considerable public attention.[115][116][117] Shortly after Bezos attended the 2017 Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Idaho, a picture outlining his physique was quickly shared across the internet becoming viral within the span of one day.[118] The photo features Bezos wearing a "performance vest and aviator sunglasses", while looking similar to multiple action movie stars.[119] The image was converted into a Internet meme shortly after and photoshopped into acton movie posters alongside Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel as well as on to various greenscreen backgrounds.[120] The meme was inducted into Know Your Meme as "swole Jeff Bezos".[121][122] More than one thousand derivative memes were estimated to have been created during July 2017.[123] His physical appearance propagated the public's reception of him as a symbolically dominant figure in business and in popular culture.[124] Starting in 2017, he was parodied as being supernatural and akin to an enterprising super villain.[125][126][127] His physical apparence has been characterized with a height of 5′ 7″ (1.70 m) to 5′ 8″ (1.73 m), a shaved head, and a "built" physicality.[128] His lifestyle also contributes to his public image. According to numerous profiles about his daily routine, he wakes up naturally between 7 and 8:00 AM without the aid of an alarm clock.[129][130] In addition to frequenting food trucks, he is known to eat exotic foods such as "breakfast octopus" and "roasted iguana".[131][132][133] During the late 2010s, Bezos reversed his reputation for being reluctant to spend money on non-business related expenses.[134] He purchased a former textile museum as a private residence in Washington D.C. in 2016 for $23 million, while maintaining a $24 million residence in Beverly Hills, California, and one of the largest ranches in the country (located in the southwest).[134] His liberal personal spending and a lack of philanthropic activity drew a negative response with the public from 2016 to 2018.[135][134]

Leadership style

While working at D. E. Shaw & Co and during the early years of Amazon, Bezos used what he called a "regret-minimization framework".[136] His most known rendition of this life philosophy was quoted as "When I'm 80, am I going to regret leaving Wall Street? No. Will I regret missing the beginning of the Internet? Yes."[136] 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 spread sheets and basing executive decisions on data.[137]

Bezos uses the term "work–life harmony" instead of the more standard "work–life balance" because he believes balance "implies there's a strict trade-off".[138] He believes that work and home life are interconnected, informing and calibrating each other.[138] Bezos does not schedule early morning meetings and applies a "two pizza rule": no meetings where two pizzas can't feed everyone in the board room.[130] He is said to meet with Amazon investors for a total of only six hours a year.[130] Started in 1998, Bezos publishes an annual letter for Amazon shareholders, clients, staff, and customers. In this letter, aside from detailing company growth, Bezos elaborates on his leadership style.[139] His letters frequently refer to five principles: focus on customers not competitors, take risks for market leadership, facilitate staff morality, build a company culture, and empower people.[140]


His first major award was given to him in 1999 when he was named Time magazine's Person of the Year.[141] In 2008, he was selected by U.S. News & World Report as one of America's best leaders.[142] Bezos was awarded an honorary doctorate in Science and Technology from Carnegie Mellon University in 2008.[143]

In 2011, The Economist gave Bezos and Gregg Zehr an Innovation Award for the Amazon Kindle.[144] In 2012, Bezos was named Businessperson of The Year by Fortune.[145] He is also a member of the Bilderberg Group and attended the 2011 Bilderberg conference in St. Moritz, Switzerland,[146] and the 2013 conference in Watford, Hertfordshire, England. He was a member of the Executive Committee of The Business Council for 2011 and 2012.[147] In 2014, he was ranked the best-performing CEO in the world by Harvard Business Review.[148] 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 was awarded the Heinlein Prize for Advances in Space Commercialization, which earned him $250,000. The prize money was donated to the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space by Bezos.[149] 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".[150] In March 2018, he was awarded the Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award in recognition of his work with Blue Origin.[131]


Annual estimates of Jeff Bezos' net worth[b]
Year Billions Change Year Billions Change
1999 10.1 Steady 00.0% 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%

Jeff Bezos first became a millionaire in 1997, aged 33, after raising $54 million through Amazon's initial public offering (IPO).[151] He was first included on Forbes' The World's Billionaires list in 1999 with a registered net worth of $10.1 billion, aged 35.[152] His net worth decreased to $6.1 billion a year later marking a 40.5% drop.[153] His wealth plummeted even more the following year, dropping 66.6% to $2.0 billion.[154] He lost $500 million the following year bringing his net worth to his lowest point at $1.5 billion.[155] He rebounded adding $1 billion to his overall net worth in 2003.[156] The following year, his net worth increased by 104% to $2.5 billion.[156] In 2005, his wealth decreased to $4.1 billion.[157] He added $200 million to his net worth a year later, nearly doubling it to $8.7 billion in 2007.[158] In 2008, partly due to the financial crisis, he lost $500 million.[159] A year later, an economic recession would further erode his wealth decreasing it by 17.7% to $6.8 billion.[160] 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.[160][161]

In 2011, his wealth was estimated to be $18.1 billion, growing 43.6%.[162] His net worth increased to $23.2 billion the year after, and again to $28.9 billion in 2013.[163] After a rumor broke out that Amazon was developing a smartphone, his net worth rose to $30.5 billon despite Bloomberg publishing multiple pieces stating that his wealth "declined" in 2014.[164][165] A year later Bezos entered the Top Ten nearly doubling his net worth to a grand total of 50.3 billion.[166] Bezos rose to be the 5th richest person in the world hours before market close the previous day; he gained $7 billon in one hour.[166] By the time the Forbes list was calculated in March 2016, his net worth was registered at $45.2 billion.[167] 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.[168] In July 2017, he momentarily unseated Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates as the wealthiest person in the world after sporadic jumps in Amazon's share price.[169]

Chart showing annual wealth of Jeff Bezos from 1999 to 2018

He would continue to sporadically surpass Gates throughout the month of October 2017 after Amazon's share price fluctuated.[170] 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%.[171] When the 2017 list was issued, Bezos' net worth was registered at $72.8 billion, adding $27.6 billion from last year.[172] He was officially ranked as the third wealthiest person in the world up from the 5th spot in 2016.[172]

On March 6, 2018, he was officially designated the wealthiest person in the world with a registered net worth of $112 billion.[5] He unseated Bill Gates ($90 billion) who was $6 billion away from Warren Buffett ($84 billion), ranked third.[173] He is considered the first "centi-billionaire" (not adjusted for inflation).[174][175] According to Maxim, his wealth, in 2017-18 terms, equaled that of 2.7 million Americans.[176] Bezos increased his net worth by $33.6 billion from January 2017 to January 2018. This net increase outstripped the economic development (in GDP terms) of more than 96 countries around the world.[177] It was estimated by The Motley Fool that had Bezos not sold any of his shares from its original IPO (in 1997), his net worth would sit at $181 billion in 2018.[178]

Personal life

While Bezos was working for D. E. Shaw in 1992, he met novelist MacKenzie Tuttle. MacKenzie was a research associate at the firm at the time and they married a year later.[34][179] In 1994, they moved to Seattle, Washington, to found Amazon.[180] Bezos and his wife are the parents of four children: three sons, and one daughter adopted from China.[64][181]

Bezos was in a helicopter crash on March 6, 2003. While flying through his ranch in Texas, the wind blew his small helicopter off-kilter, which prompted the pilot to land the aircraft.[182] After the chopper landed, one of its propellers caught on a cedar tree, which caused the frame of the helicopter to break. Bezos sustained minor injuries and was discharged from a local hospital on the same day.[29] Recalling the event, Bezos stated: "The biggest takeaway is: Avoid helicopters whenever possible! They're not as reliable as a fixed-wing aircraft."[29]

In 2016, Bezos played a Starfleet official in the movie Star Trek Beyond, later joining the cast and crew at a San Diego Comic-Con screening.[183]


Jeff Bezos has been profiled as a Democrat, Libertarian, and a Libertarian Democrat.[184] David Weigel has written that Bezos supports "low taxes and social liberalism".[184] His political donations have been mostly–but not exclusively–to Democratic Party candidates, movements, and politicians.[185] According to public campaign finance records, Bezos has donated to the electoral campaigns of Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, two U.S. Senators from Washington.[185] He has also donated to U.S. representative John Conyers, as well as Patrick Leahy and Spencer Abraham, U.S. senators serving on committees dealing with "Internet-related issues".[185] Bezos is a supporter of legalizing same-sex marriage and the LGBTQ movement.[186] During a 2010 campaign to install an income tax on high net worth individuals in Washington, he donated $100,000 towards a movement against it.[185][187] Bezos has donated to Amazon's political action committee (PAC),[185] which has given evenly to Democrats and Republicans.[188][189]

Despite Bezos criticizing U.S. president Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential election, he was asked to join Trump's Defense Innovation Board, an advisory council to improve the technology used by the Defense Department. Bezos passed on the offer and declined to comment as to why.[52][190] Trump has alluded to potential conflicts of interest between Amazon, the Washington Post, and Bezos. Trump accused Bezos using his business exploits to avoid corporate taxation, gain political influence, and undermine his presidency by spreading what he referred to as "fake news".[191] Bezos has repeatedly joked about using his rocket company to send Donald Trump into outer space.[192][193]


Bezos funded the retrieval of this F-1 Engine from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in 2015.

Although secretive about his plans, Jeff Bezos supports his philanthropic efforts through direct donations, non-profit projects funded by Bezos Expeditions, and other charitable organizations.[194] 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.[195][196] He personally donated $10 million in 2009 and $20 million in 2010, to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.[197] Bezos also donated $800,000 to Worldreader, a non-profit, founded by a former Amazon employee.[198]

In 2015, he funded the recovery of two Saturn V first-stage Rocketdyne F-1 engines from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.[199] They were positively identified as belonging to the Apollo 11 mission's S-1C stage in July 2013.[200] The engine is currently on display at the Seattle Museum of Flight.

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".[18] Bezos has notably not signed The Giving Pledge, a promise by the wealthiest of the world to give half or all of their money to charitable organizations.[201] 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.[202] The committee provides pro bono legal services to protect the rights of American journalists.[202]

In January 2018, he made a $33 million donation to TheDream.US, a college scholarship fund for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States when they were minors.[203]

See also


  1. ^ According to a 2018 Forbes article, the growth of his net worth from 1988 to 2018 has outstripped the economic growth of Iceland, Belize or Monaco.[7]
  2. ^ According to the cross-calucations and estimates of Forbes (1999–2018).[1] All currency figures expressed in the United States dollar (US$) in nominal terms.


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  • Robinson, Tom (2010). Jeff Bezos: Architect. ABDO Publishing. ISBN 9781604537598. 

External links