Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos' iconic laugh.jpg
Bezos at the ENCORE awards in 2011
Born Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen
(1964-01-12) January 12, 1964 (age 53)
Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.
Residence Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater Princeton University
Occupation Technology and retail entrepreneur and investor
Known for Founding and leading Amazon.com and Blue Origin
Managing Bezos Expeditions
Net worth US$78.4 billion (March 2017)
MacKenzie Bezos (m. 1993)[1]
Children 4[2]

Jeff Bezos (;[3] born Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen; January 12, 1964) is an American engineer, technology and retail entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist[4] who is best known as the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Amazon.com, which is the world's largest online shopping retailer.[5] The company began as an Internet merchant of books and expanded to a wide variety of products and services, most recently video streaming and audio streaming. Amazon.com is currently the world's largest Internet sales company on the World Wide Web.[6]

Bezos's other diversified business interests include aerospace and newspapers. He is the founder and manufacturer of Blue Origin (founded in 2000) with test flights to space beginning in 2015, and plans for commercial suborbital human spaceflight beginning in 2018.[7] In 2013, Bezos purchased The Washington Post newspaper.[8] A number of other business investments are managed through Bezos Expeditions.

With an estimated net worth of US$78.4 billion as of March 2017,[9]Bezos is currently the third-richest person in the world just behind Bill Gates and Amancio Ortega in first and second places, and just ahead of Warren Buffet in fourth place.[10][11] His rise to this position occurred after Amazon registered a 67% jump in share price.[12]

Early life and education

Bezos was born Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen to Jacklyn (née Gise) and Ted Jorgensen in Albuquerque, New Mexico.[13] 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. As of March 2015, Bezos was among the largest landholders in Texas.[14] Bezos's maternal grandfather was a regional director of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Albuquerque. He retired early to the ranch, where Bezos spent many summers as a youth, working with him.[15] At an early age, he displayed mechanical aptitude--as a toddler, he even dismantled his crib with a screwdriver.[16]

Bezos's mother Jacklyn was a teenager at the time of his birth. Her marriage to Jorgensen lasted a little more than a year. In April 1968 (when Jeff was 4) she married her second husband, Miguel Bezos, a Cuban who immigrated to the United States alone when he was 15 years old. His family was originally from Villafrechós, a little town in Valladolid (Spain). Miguel Bezos worked his way through the University of Albuquerque, married Jacklyn, and legally adopted his stepson Jeff, who changed his surname from Jorgensen to Bezos. After the wedding the family moved to Houston (Texas) and Miguel worked as an engineer for Exxon. The young Jeff attended River Oaks Elementary School in Houston from fourth to sixth grade. As a child, he spent summers working on his grandfather's ranch in southern Texas.[17]

Bezos often displayed scientific interests and technological proficiency; he once rigged an electric alarm to keep his younger siblings out of his room.[18] The family moved to Miami, Florida, where he attended Miami Palmetto High School. While in high school, he attended the Student Science Training Program at the University of Florida, receiving a Silver Knight Award in 1982.[19] He was high school valedictorian[20] and was a National Merit Scholar.[21]

Bezos graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University with bachelor of science degrees in electrical engineering and computer science.[22] While at Princeton, he was also elected to Tau Beta Pi. He served as the president of the Princeton chapter of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.[23]

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.[24]

Business career

After graduating from Princeton in 1986, Bezos worked on Wall Street in the computer science field.[25] Then he worked on building a network for international trade for a company known as Fitel.[26] He next worked at Bankers Trust.[27] Later on he also worked on Internet-enabled business opportunities at the hedge fund company D. E. Shaw & Co.[28]

Amazon.com

Bezos founded Amazon.com in 1994 after making a cross-country drive from New York to Seattle, writing up the Amazon business plan on the way. He initially set up the company in his garage.[29] He had left his well-paying job at a New York City hedge fund after learning "about the rapid growth in Internet use," which coincided with a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling that exempted mail order companies from collecting sales taxes in states where they lack a physical presence."[17] 321 Bezos is known for his attention to business details. As described by Portfolio.com, he "is at once a happy-go-lucky mogul and a notorious micromanager. ... an executive who wants to know about everything from contract minutiae to how he is quoted in all Amazon press releases."[29]

On August 15, 2015, The New York Times wrote an article entitled "Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace" about Amazon's business practices. Bezos responded to his employees with a Sunday memo[30] claiming it did not represent the company he leads and challenged its depiction as "a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard",[31] and to contact him directly if true.

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.[32] On August 4, 2016, he sold 1,000,000 of his shares at a value of $756.7 million. As of September 21, 2016, Bezos owned 80.9 million shares of Amazon stock, being 16.9% of all shares outstanding, with a market value of $69.3 billion.[33]

Blue Origin

In 2000, Bezos founded Blue Origin, a human spaceflight startup company,[34] partially as a result of his fascination with space travel,[35] including an early interest in developing "space hotels, amusement parks, colonies and small cities for 2 million or 3 million people orbiting the Earth."[20] The company was kept secret for a few years; it became publicly known only in 2006 when purchasing a sizable aggregation of land in west Texas for a launch and test facility.[36] In a 2011 interview, Bezos indicated that he founded the space company to help enable "anybody to go into space" and stated that the company was committed to decreasing the cost and increasing the safety of spaceflight.[37] 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."[35] Bezos said that the crash was 'not the outcome that any of us wanted, but we're signed up for this to be hard.'"[35] 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."[38]

In 2013, Bezos reportedly discussed commercial spaceflight opportunities and strategies with Richard Branson, multibillionaire founder of Virgin Group and chairman of Virgin Galactic.[39]

In 2015, Bezos further discussed the motivation for his spaceflight-related business when he 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."[40] In 2016, Bezos 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."[7] Bezos has said that he is trying to change the fundamental cost structure of accessing space.[41]

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 historic vertical landing back at the launch site in West Texas.[42] Blue Origin is currently in an extensive flight test program of New Shepard which expects to begin carrying "test passengers" in 2017 and initiate commercial flights in 2018.[7] Blue is currently building 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.[43]

In June 2016, Bezos reiterated his long term goal to see nearly all heavy-industry manufacturing factories in space as part of a wide-ranging, but rare, interview.[44] In September 2016, he added that he hoped to colonize the solar system.[45] Recently, Bezos also revealed that he was selling about $1 billion in Amazon stock a year to finance his Blue Origin rocket company.[46]

The Washington Post

On August 5, 2013, Bezos announced his purchase of The Washington Post for $250 million in cash. Amazon.com was not to be involved.[47] "This is uncharted terrain," he told the newspaper, "and it will require experimentation."[47] Shortly after the announcement of intent to purchase, The Washington Post published a long-form profile of Bezos on August 10, 2013.[38] The sale closed on October 1, 2013, and Bezos's Nash Holdings LLC took control.[48]

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 including The Dallas Morning News, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.[49] Bezos revealed in 2016 that he conducted no due diligence when accepting the first offer from former Washington Post owner Donald E. Graham.[50]

Google

Bezos was one of the first investors in Google, investing $250,000 in 1998. That $250,000 investment resulted in 3.3 million shares of Google stock worth about $2.9 billion today.[51][52]

Bezos Expeditions

Companies that have been funded at least in part by Bezos Expeditions include (this list is incomplete):[53][54]

Philanthropy

In July 2012, Bezos and his wife personally donated $2.5 million to support a same-sex marriage referendum in Washington, which successfully passed.[58]

Nonprofit projects funded by Bezos Expeditions include

  • First full-scale prototype Clock of the Long Now, designed to last 10,000 years.[14][59][60] - $42 million
  • Bezos Center for Innovation at the Seattle Museum of History and Industry - $10 million[61]
  • Recovery of two Saturn V first-stage Rocketdyne F-1 engines from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.[62] They were positively identified as belonging to the Apollo 11 mission's S-1C stage in July 2013.[63]
  • Bezos Center for Neural Circuit Dynamics at Princeton Neuroscience Institute - $15 million[64]
  • Bezos Family Foundation, an educational charity[65]

The foundation gave $10 million in 2009 and $20 million in 2010 to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.[66] Bezos also donated $800,000 to Worldreader, founded by a former Amazon employee.[67]

Recognition

He was named Time magazine's Person of the Year in 1999.[68] In 2008 he was selected by U.S. News & World Report as one of America's best leaders.[69] 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.[70]

In 2012, Bezos was named Businessperson of The Year by Fortune.[71] He is also a member of the Bilderberg Group and attended the 2011 Bilderberg conference in St. Moritz, Switzerland,[72] and the 2013 conference in Watford, Hertfordshire, England. He was a member of the Executive Committee of The Business Council for 2011 and 2012.[73]

According to Forbes, Bezos is listed in October 2016 as the third wealthiest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$72 billion.[74] In 2014, he was ranked the best CEO in the world by Harvard Business Review.[75]

He has also figured in Fortune's list of Fifty 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.[76]

In April 2017, Bezos made it to the No. 1 of Adweek's 2017 Power List: Top 100 Leaders in Media, Marketing and Tech.[77]

Criticism

Bezos was named World's Worst Boss by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), at their World Congress, in May 2014. In making the award, Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the ITUC, said "Jeff Bezos represents the inhumanity of employers who are promoting the American corporate model..."[78] An article in the New York Times described working for Bezos and in the offices of Amazon as a grueling and inhumane experience with many employees regularly being terminated or quitting.[79]

Under Bezos's direction, Amazon has been criticized as "stingy" in its corporate giving practices.[67][80]

Journalist Shawn McCoy contrasted the philanthropic practices of Amazon and Bezos with the comparatively more generous Microsoft (also based near Seattle) and fellow billionaire Bill Gates.[81] Some found Bezos more akin to Steve Jobs, who was skeptical of philanthropy and made few donations.[82][83]

Personal life

Bezos and his wife MacKenzie have four children.[38][84] Ted Jorgensen, his biological father, tried in vain before his death in 2015 to contact Bezos and be acknowledged as his father.[85]

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Further reading

External links


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