Jeffrey Preston Bezos is an American businessman, media proprietor, and investor. He is best known as the founder, CEO, and president of the online retail company Amazon.
The first centi-billionaire on the Forbes wealth index, Bezos has been the world’s richest person since 2017 and was named the “richest man in modern history” after his net worth increased to $150 billion in July 2018.
In September 2018, Forbes described him as “far richer than anyone else on the planet” as he added $1.8 billion to his net worth when Amazon became the second company in history to reach a market cap of $1 trillion.
- Full name: Jeffrey Preston Bezos
- Profession: American businessman
- Born: 12 January 1964 (age 56 years), Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States
- Height: 1.71 m
- Net worth: 124 billion USD (2020)
- Spouse: MacKenzie Bezos (m. 1993; div. 2019)
- Education: Princeton University (1986), River Oaks Elementary School, Miami Palmetto Senior High School
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About Jeff Bezos
Bezos was born on 12 January 1964 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States. The son of Jacklyn (née Gise) and Ted Jorgensen.
At the time of his birth, his mother was a 17-year-old high school student and his father was a bike shop owner.
After his parents divorced, his mother 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 Jeffrey Preston Bezos from Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen.
Bezos attended River Oaks Elementary School in Houston from fourth to sixth grade. Bezos’ maternal grandfather was Lawrence Preston Gise, a regional director of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in Albuquerque.
Gise retired early to his family’s ranch near Cotulla, Texas, where Bezos would spend many summers in his youth.
Bezos would later purchase this ranch and expand it from 25,000 acres (10,117 ha) to 300,000 acres (121,406 ha).
His maternal grandmother was Mattie Louise Gise (née Strait), through whom he is a cousin of country singer George Strait.
Bezos often displayed scientific interests and technological proficiency, and 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 in nearby Pinecrest, Florida.
While Bezos was in high school, he worked at McDonald’s as a short-order line cook during the breakfast shift.
He attended the Student Science Training Program at the University of Florida. He was high school valedictorian, a National Merit Scholar, and a Silver Knight Award winner in 1982.
In his graduation speech, Bezos told the audience he dreamed of the day when mankind would colonize space. A local newspaper quoted his intention “to get all people off the earth and see it turned into a huge national park”.
In 1986, he graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University with a 4.2 GPA and a BSc in electrical engineering and computer science; he was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
In addition, he was elected to Tau Beta Pi and was the president of the Princeton chapter of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS).
After Bezos graduated from Princeton University in 1986, he was offered jobs at Intel, Bell Labs, and Andersen Consulting, among others.
He first worked at Fitel, a fintech telecommunications start-up, where he was tasked with building a network for international trade.
Bezos was promoted to head of development and director of customer service thereafter. He transitioned into the banking industry when he became a product manager at Bankers Trust. He worked there from 1988 to 1990.
He then joined D. E. Shaw & Co, a newly founded hedge fund with a strong emphasis on mathematical modelling in 1990 and worked there until 1994. Bezos became D. E. Shaw’s fourth senior vice-president at the age of 30.
In late 1993, Bezos decided to establish an online bookstore. He left his job at D. E. Shaw and founded Amazon in his garage on July 5, 1994, after writing its business plan on a cross-country drive from New York City to Seattle.
Bezos initially named his new company Cadabra but later changed the name to Amazon after the Amazon River in South America, in part because the name begins with the letter A, which is at the beginning of the alphabet.
He accepted an estimated $300,000 from his parents and invested in Amazon. He warned many early investors that there was a 70% chance that Amazon would fail or go bankrupt.
Although Amazon was originally an online bookstore, Bezos had always planned to expand to other products.
Three years after Bezos founded Amazon, he took it public with an initial public offering (IPO). In response to critical reports from Fortune and Barron’s, Bezos maintained that the growth of the Internet would overtake competition from larger book retailers such as Borders and Barnes & Noble.
In 1998, Bezos diversified into the online sale of music and video, and by the end of the year he had expanded the company’s products to include a variety of other consumer goods.
Bezos used the $54 million raised during the company’s 1997 equity offering to finance aggressive acquisition of smaller competitors.
In 2000, Bezos borrowed $2 billion from banks, as its cash balances dipped to only $350 million. In 2002, Bezos led Amazon to launch Amazon Web Services, which compiled data from weather channels and website traffic.
In late 2002, rapid spending from Amazon caused it financial distress when revenues stagnated. After the company nearly went bankrupt, he closed distribution centers and laid off 14% of the Amazon workforce.
In 2003, Amazon rebounded from financial instability and turned a profit of $400 million. In November 2007, Bezos launched the Amazon Kindle.
According to a 2008 Time profile, Bezos wished to create a device that allowed a “flow state” in reading similar to the experience of video games.
In 2013, Bezos secured a $600 million contract with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on behalf of Amazon Web Services.
In October of that year, Amazon was recognized as the largest online shopping retailer in the world.
In May 2016, Bezos sold slightly more than one million shares of his holdings in the company for $671 million, the largest sum he had ever raised from selling some of his Amazon stock.
On August 4, 2016, Bezos sold another million of his shares for $756.7 million. A year later, Bezos took on 130,000 new employees when he ramped up hiring at company distribution centers.
By January 19, 2018, his Amazon stock holdings had appreciated to slightly over $109 billion; months later he began to sell stock to raise cash for other enterprises, in particular, Blue Origin.
On January 29, 2018, he was featured in Amazon’s Super Bowl commercial. On February 1, 2018, Amazon reported its highest ever profit with quarterly earnings of $2 billion.
Due to the growth of Alibaba in China, Bezos has often expressed interest in expanding Amazon into India.
On July 27, 2017, Bezos momentarily became the world’s wealthiest person over Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates when his estimated net worth increased to just over $90 billion. His wealth surpassed $100 billion for the first time on November 24, 2017, and he was formally designated the wealthiest person in the world by Forbes on March 6, 2018, with a net worth of $112 billion.
In March 2018, Bezos dispatched Amit Agarwal, Amazon’s global senior vice president, to India with $5.5 billion to localize operations throughout the company’s supply chain routes.
Later in the month, U.S. President Donald Trump accused Amazon–and Bezos, specifically–of sales tax avoidance, misusing postal routes, and anti-competitive business practices.
Amazon’s share price fell by 9% in response to the President’s negative comments; this reduced Bezos’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.
Additionally, statements by the Trump administration, in favour of overturning the antitrust law known as the Paramount Decree, have been predicted to help Amazon acquire the Landmark Theaters chain.
Criticism of Amazon’s business practices continued in September 2018 when Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (Stop BEZOS) Act and accused Amazon of receiving corporate welfare.
This followed revelations by the non-profit group New Food Economy which found that one third of Amazon workers in Arizona, and one tenth of Amazon workers in Pennsylvania and Ohio, relied on food stamps.
While preparing to introduce the bill, Sanders opined: “Instead of attempting to explore Mars or go to the moon, how about Jeff Bezos pays his workers a living wage?” He later said: “Bezos could play a profound role.
If he said today, nobody who is employed at Amazon will receive less than a living wage, it would send a message to every corporation in America.”
Sanders’s efforts elicited a response from Amazon which pointed to the 130,000 jobs it created in 2017 and called the $28,446 figure for its median salary “misleading” as it included part-time workers.
However, Sanders countered that the companies targeted by his proposal have placed an increased focus on part-time workers to escape benefit obligations.
On October 2, 2018, Bezos announced a company-wide wage increase, which Sanders applauded.
The American workers who were being paid the minimum wage had this increased to $15 per hour – a decision that was interpreted as support for the Fight for $15 movement.
Born in Albuquerque and raised in Houston and later Miami, Bezos graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science.
He worked on Wall Street in a variety of related fields from 1986 to early 1994. He founded Amazon in late 1994 on a cross-country road trip from New York City to Seattle.
The company began as an online bookstore and has since expanded to a wide variety of other e-commerce products and services, including video and audio streaming, cloud computing, and AI.
It is currently the world’s largest online sales company, the largest Internet company by revenue, and the world’s largest provider of virtual assistants and cloud infrastructure services through its Amazon Web Services branch.
Bezos founded the aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company Blue Origin in 2000.
A Blue Origin test flight successfully first reached space in 2015, and the company has upcoming plans to begin commercial suborbital human spaceflight.
He also purchased the major American newspaper The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million in cash, and manages many other investments through his Bezos Expeditions venture capital firm.
- In 1999, Bezos received his first major award when Time named him Person of the Year.
- In 2008, he was selected by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s best leaders.
- Bezos was awarded an honorary doctorate in science and technology from Carnegie Mellon University in 2008.
- In 2011, The Economist gave Bezos and Gregg Zehr an Innovation Award for the Amazon Kindle.
- In 2012, Bezos was named Businessperson of the Year by Fortune.
- He is also a member of the Bilderberg Group and attended the 2011 Bilderberg conference in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and the 2013 conference in Watford, Hertfordshire, England. He was a member of the Executive Committee of The Business Council for 2011 and 2012.
- In 2014, he was ranked the best-performing CEO in the world by Harvard Business Review.
- He has also figured in Fortune’s list of 50 great leaders of the world for three straight years, topping the list in 2015.
- In September 2016, Bezos received a $250,000 prize for winning the Heinlein Prize for Advances in Space Commercialization, which he donated to the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.
- In February 2018, Bezos was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for “leadership and innovation in space exploration, autonomous systems, and building a commercial pathway for human space flight”.
- In March 2018, at the Explorers Club annual dinner, he was awarded the Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award in recognition of his work with Blue Origin.
- He received Germany’s 2018 Axel Springer Award for Business Innovation and Social Responsibility.
- Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in their 2018 listing.