Jeffrey Preston Bezos (;[a]born Jorgensen; January 12, 1964) is an American technology entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist, who is best known as the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer.
Bezos was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and raised in Houston, Texas. He graduated from Princeton Universityin 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 Internet sales online 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. Blue Origin started test flights to space in 2015 and has plans to begin commercial suborbitalhuman spaceflight in 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 after Amazon’s share price increased by more than 2.5%. On March 6, 2018, Forbes formally designated Bezos the wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of $112 billion, making him the first centi-billionaire on the wealth index.
Early life and Education
Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen was born on January 12, 1964, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to a teenage mother, Jacklyn Gise Jorgensen, and father Ted Jorgensen, a bike shop owner and Chicago native. At the time of her son’s birth, Jacklyn was a seventeen-year-old high school student. After Jacklyn divorced Ted, she married Miguel “Mike” Bezos, a Cubanimmigrant, in April 1968. Shortly after the wedding, Mike Bezos adopted four-year-old Jorgensen, whose surname was then changed to Bezos. The family moved to Houston, 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 km2or 39 miles2) to 300,000 acres (1,214 km2 or 468 miles2). 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 he attended Miami Palmetto High School. While Bezos was in high school, he worked at McDonald’s as a short-order line cookduring the breakfast shift. He attended the Student Science Training Program at the University of Floridawhere he received a Silver Knight Awardin 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 was hired months later as a product manager at Bankers Trust; he worked there from 1988 to 1990. He worked at D. E. Shaw & Co, a newly founded hedge fund, from 1990 to 1994, where he eventually served as its 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 up 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 moved to take 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 market competition from larger book retailers such as Borders and Barnes & Noble.
In 1998, Bezos advocated for enterprise diversification when he initiated 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 equity offering to finance aggressive acquisition of smaller or competing firms. In 2002, Bezos led Amazon to launch Amazon Web Services, which compiled data from weather channels and website traffic.During late 2002, rapid spending from Amazon caused it financial distress after revenues stagnated. Bezos borrowed $2 billion from select banks with only $350 million in holdings.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 statefound in video game simulations in books; he wished readers would fully engage with books. In 2013, Bezos secured a $600 million dollar contract with the Central Intelligence Agency(CIA) on behalf of Amazon Web Services. In October that year, Amazon was named as the largest online shopping retailer in the world.
On Saturday, August 15, 2015, The New York Times published an article that described Amazon’s business practices. Bezos responded to his employees with a Sunday memo, in which he rebutted the article’s inferences that the company was an emotionally destitute workplace. Bezos said that anyone who believed that the story was true should contact him directly. 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.
On August 4, 2016, Bezos sold another million of his shares at a value of $756.7 million. A year later, Bezos took on 130,000 new employess when he initiated widespread hiring sprees across company distribution centers.On January 19, 2018, his holdings in Amazon stock 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 proliferation of Alibaba in China, Bezos has continuously expressed interest in expanding Amazon across India.
In March 2018, Bezos dispatched Amit Agarwal, Amazon’s point person, to the country, with $5.5 billion to localize operations throughout their supply chainroutes. Later in the month, U.S. President Donald Trump accused Amazon–and Bezos in particular–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 recuperated his losses when academic reports out of Stanford Universityindicated that Trump could do little to meaningfully regulate Amazon in the near-to-long term future.
Bezos giving NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver
(fourth from left) a tour of Blue Origin’s crew capsule in 2011.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Cartermeets with Bezos in 2016 at The Pentagon.
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 valedictorianwhen 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 Shepardspace 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 Shepardsuccessfully 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.
The Washington Post
On August 5, 2013, Bezos announced his purchase of The Washington Post for $250 million in cash. In order 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.