Jeff Bezos is an American entrepreneur, businessman, and the founder and chairman of Amazon. Under his guidance, Amazon became the largest retailer on the internet and the model for internet sales. He is also the owner of The Washington Post and the founder of the space exploration company Blue Origin.
In 1999, Bezos was named Time magazine's Person of the Year. In 2018, his wealth rose above $100 billion, making him the world's first centibillionaire. In 2022, he was ranked the second-wealthiest person in the world, and his net worth was estimated at $122.5 billion, according to Forbes. In November 2022, Bezos said that he plans to give away the majority of his wealth in his lifetime, during a CNN interview.
Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in 1994 with a handful of employees in his garage in Seattle, Washinton. He had just quit his investment banking position at D.E. Shaw & Co. in New York to pursue an opportunity leveraging the 2,000 percent per year growth of the internet at that time to build a virtual bookstore online. The small team began developing the software for the site, launching it and selling its first book in July 1995. On May 15, 1997, Amazon had its IPO, with its shares debuting at $18. The shares rose to $23.50 by the close, valuing the e-tailer at $560 million. By 2013, Amazon was named the largest online shopping retailer worldwide.Bezos stepped down as CEO on July 5, 2021, and remained on as chairman.
Under Jeff Bezos's leadership, Amazon grew from selling books online to offering other products and services and making several acquisitions. Amazon Prime was launched in 2005; Amazon Fresh, Music, and Kindle were launched in 2007; and Amazon Video was launched in 2011. In 2014, Amazon introduced Alexa. In 2006, Amazon Web Services (AWS) began offering information technology infrastructure services to businesses in the form of web services, now commonly known as cloud computing. Bezos even received a contract valued at $600 million from the Central Intelligence Agency on behalf of Amazon Web Services (AWS). In 2009, Amazon bought online shoe merchant Zappos, and in 2017, Amazon bought the grocery store chain Whole Foods.
In 2000, Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin, a private spaceflight company. Unlike other private spaceflight companies SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, Bezos kept progress at Blue Origin purposely quiet. Most of the company's information came out through mandatory disclosures to the Federal Aviation Administration and NASA as Bezos sought regulatory approvals and funding. In 2011, Blue Origin faced a major setback when a vehicle was destroyed during a test. Bezos revealed the failure a week after the fact in a short blog post on Blue Origin's website. In October 2012, Blue Origin revealed it had conducted a successful rocket escape test, a key milestone in rating the spacecraft safe for humans to ride.
Blue Origin successfully completed New Shepard’s first human flight to space with four private citizens onboard on July 20, 2021. The crew included Jeff Bezos, his half-brother Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and Oliver Daemen, who all officially became astronauts when they passed the Kármán Line, the internationally recognized boundary of space. At age eighty-two, Funk set the new record for the oldest person in space. She was one of the "Mercury 13," a now-famous group of thirteen women who have completed astronaut medical training. That program was canceled, and she did not make it to space until her flight with Blue Origin.
In August 2013, Jeff Bezos bought The Post and affiliated publications of The Washington Post Co., which owns the newspaper and other businesses, for $250 million in cash. As part of the transaction, The Post Co. received a new name and continued as a publicly traded company without the newspaper.
Within three years of the transaction, The Washington Post doubled its web traffic and became profitable. Under Bezos's ownership, The Washington Post transformed from a local print publication to a national, online publication with over 1.5 million paid digital-only subscribers.
Jeff Bezos founded Bezos Expeditions in 2005 as his family office. Bezos Expeditions' umbrella covers Blue Origin, The Washington Post, Bezos Day One Fund, Bezos Family Foundation, the 10,000 Year Clock, F-1 Engine Recovery, and his personal investments. Personal Investments include investments in companies including Airbnb, Basecamp, Cloud Paper, Domo, EverFi, Lummo, MakerBot, Nextdoor, RealWorld, Stack Overflow, Twitter, Uber, and Workday.
Bezos Day One Fund contains two sub-funds, Day 1 Families Fund and Day 1 Academies Fund. It was founded with a $2 billion commitment to focus on making meaningful and lasting impacts in two areas: funding existing non-profits that help families experiencing homelessness and creating a network of new, non-profit tier-one preschools in low-income communities.
The 10,000 Year Clock is a special project being built in a mountain in West Texas by computer scientist and inventor Danny Hillis. The vision is to build a clock that will keep time for the next 10,000 years and be a symbol and an icon for long-term thinking. It is designed to tick once a year, to have the century hand advance once every 100 years, and for the cuckoo to come out on the millennium.
The F-1 Engine Recovery project is focused on recovering the five F-1 Engines of the Apollo 11 mission that dropped into the Atlantic Ocean after firing. They were the engines that propelled the Apollo 11 mission to space, allowing Neil Armstrong to walk on the moon.
Jeff Bezos made a $250,000 personal investment in the fledgling search engine company Google in 1998. When Google went public in 2004, that $250,000 investment translated into 3.3 million shares of Google stock and represented a stock share position worth over $280 million. He talked about his reasons for making the early investment by saying, “…There was no business plan…They had a vision. It was a customer-focused point of view....I just fell in love with Larry and Sergey.”
Jeff Bezos has other philanthropic activities in addition to the Bezos Day One Fund managed by Bezos Expeditions. Up until 2021, Bezos had been criticized for his limited philanthropic giving. Before 2019, he and his then-wife MacKenzie had only given a total of just over $145 million or .0906 percent of their net worth. Additionally, in its first seventeen years of operation, Bezos had only donated $6 million to his parents' charitable organization, the Bezos Family Foundation. In November 2022, Bezos stated he plans to give away the majority of his wealth during his lifetime.
In July 2021, he launched the Courage and Civility Award, which aims to honor those who have “demonstrated courage” and tried to be a unifier in a divisive world. The first two recipients were CNN contributor Van Jones and chef Jose Andres, each receiving $100 million for their charitable causes. In November 2022, Bezos gave the award and $100 million to Dolly Parton.
In February 2020, the Bezos Earth Fund was created by a commitment of $10 billion from Jeff Bezos to be disbursed as grants within the current decade. The group is committed to fighting climate change and protecting nature.
Jeff Bezos started his first business, the Dream Institute, in high school. It was an educational summer camp for fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders, and participants were required to read books such as The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, and Dune by Frank Herbert.
After graduating from Princeton University, Jeff Bezos went to work at Fitel, a start-up company that was building a network to conduct international trade. He then joined Bankers Trust, rising to a vice president role. After that, he joined the New York investment bank D.E. Shaw & Co. in 1990. He became the firm's youngest senior vice president soon after joining. In his role, he was in charge of examining the investment possibilities of the internet, which was growing by more than 2,000 percent per year at the time. The internet's enormous potential sparked his idea to create a virtual bookstore that would later become Amazon. In 1994, he quit D.E. Shaw and moved to Seattle, Washington, to start Amazon.
Jeff Bezos attended River Oaks Elementary School in Houston from fourth to sixth grade. When his family moved to Miami, he attended Miami Palmetto Senior High School. Graduating in 1982, Jeff Bezos was his high school's valedictorian, a National Merit Scholar, and a Silver Knight award winner for science and was accepted early admission to Princeton University. He graduated from Princeton in 1986 summa cum laude with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science.
Bezos met MacKenzie Tuttle when they both worked at D.E. Shaw. He was a senior vice president, and she was an administrative assistant to pay the bills to fund her writing career. The couple dated for three months before getting engaged and married shortly thereafter in 1993. MacKenzie was an integral part of the founding and success of Amazon, helping to create Amazon's first business plan and serving as the company's first accountant.
Bezos and MacKenzie have four children together—three sons, the oldest named Preston, and a daughter adopted from China. The names of their other three children have been kept private. After more than twenty-five years of marriage, Bezos and MacKenzie divorced in 2019. As part of the divorce settlement, Bezos transferred a quarter of his then-16 percent Amazon stake to her, leaving his stake at nearly $110 billion and MacKenzie's at more than $37 billion. MacKenzie announced that she planned to give away at least half of her wealth to charity.
Right after the announcement of their divorce in 2019, Bezos's extramarital affair with television host Lauren Sanchez was detailed by The National Enquirer. Sanchez divorced her husband in April 2019. She and Bezos made their first public appearance as a couple that July at Wimbledon.
Jeff Bezos also has an acting credit. In 2016, Bezos stepped in front of the camera for a cameo appearance playing an alien in Star Trek Beyond. A Star Trek fan since childhood, Bezos is listed as a Starfleet Official in the movie credits on IMDb.
Jeff Bezos was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on January 12, 1964, as Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen. His mother is Jacklyn Gise (Jackie), and his biological father is Ted Jorgensen. The two dated in high school, and his mother was sixteen and his father was eighteen when she became pregnant with him. They flew to Mexico with their parents’ money to get married. Jorgensen belonged to a unicycle troupe, worked at a retail store making $1.25 an hour, did not have much money, and “had a habit of drinking too much.” Gise divorced Jorgensen when Jeff Bezos was seventeen months old. Jorgensen did not see his son again and stated in a 2012 interview that he did not know that his son was the Amazon founder or that he was even still alive.
In 1968, Gise married Miguel Bezos (Mike Bezos), a Cuban immigrant. He arrived in Miami in 1962 at age fifteen, knowing only one word of English: “hamburger.” Jorgensen agreed to let Bezos adopt his son and, at four years old, Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen became Jeffrey Preston Bezos. Mike Bezos worked his way through the University of Albuquerque, married Jackie, and moved the family to Houston, where he became an engineer for Exxon. When Jeff Bezos was a teenager, the family moved to Miami, Florida.
Growing up, Bezos spent summers with his maternal grandparents, working on various tasks on their Texas ranch or road-tripping with their Airstream. His maternal ancestors were early settlers in Texas, and over the generations had acquired a 25,000-acre ranch at Cotulla. His grandfather, Lawrence Gise, who has been a regional director of the Atomic Energy Commission in Albuquerque, retired to the ranch in Texas. Bezos's grandfather played a major role in his life, becoming a role model for both his knowledge of science and his constant presence on the ranch.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and brother Mark give a rare interview about growing up and secrets to success
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