QUICK ANSWER: As of November 2019, Bezos’ net worth is $111.4 billion
Jeff Bezos is a successful businessman who is most popular for being the CEO, founder and president of Amazon and Blue Origin, along with a list of other companies he’s founded or involved in. Bezos has the distinction of being the richest man of modern times and is the first centi-billionaire on the Forbes list. Bezos is 55 years old. He is also an investor and philanthropist.
Jeff Bezos is relatively young considering his professional success. He graduated from Princeton in 1986 and was offered jobs at some of the country’s top companies, including Bell Labs, Intel and Andersen Consulting. Bezos’ first job was at Fitel, a fintech telecommunications startup company. While at Fitel, he was assigned the task of building an international trade network. Bezos received a promotion and become head of development and director customer service.
Jeff Bezos then transitioned into the banking industry and became a part of Bankers Trust, where he became product manager from 1988 until 1990. He went on to join D.E. Shaw & Co in 1990, which was a new hedge fun focused on mathematical modeling. Bezos worked at D.E. Shaw & Co until 1994 and became the company’s fourth senior vice president by the time he was 30.
Bezos opened an online bookstore in 1993. He left D.E. Shaw and founded Amazon in his garage in 1994.
Bezos came up with the business plan for Amazon during a cross-country road trip from New York to Seattle. Initially, Bezos gave the company the name Cadbara but changed it to Amazon in honor of South America’s Amazon River. Bezos also liked the name Amazon because it started with the first letter of the alphabet.
Bezos received an investment of about $300,000 from his parents to start Amazon. There were additional investors who wanted to fund his company, but Bezos warned them that there was a 70% chance that Amazon would go bankrupt or fail to thrive.
Amazon was originally a bookstore, but Bezos always had plans for the company to expand to sell other products. Three years after Amazon was founded, Bezos made the company public.
He received skepticism from financial companies like Barron’s and Fortune but maintained his predication that the Internet would eventually gain more popularity and take over competition from larger bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders.
Life Before Fame
Jeff Bezos was born Jeffery Preston Jorgenson on January 12, 1964 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His parents were Ted and Jacklyn Gise Jorgenson. When Bezos was born, his mother was 17 and in high school and his father owned a bike shop. When Jaklyn divorced Ted, she married Miguel “Mike” Bezos in 1968. After the wedding, Bezos adopted young Jeff and he changed his last name to Bezos.
The Bezos family then moved to Houston, Texas, where Mike was an Exxon engineer and earned a degree from the University of New Mexico. Jeff Bezos went to River Oaks Elementary School in Houston for grades 4-6.
Bezos’ grandfather on his mother’s side was Lawrence Preston Gise, a U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) regional director in Albuquerque. Gise retired early and moved to the family ranch near Cotulla, Texas, where Bezos would spend several summers as a young boy. Later, Bezos would buy the ranch and expand it from 25,000 acres to 300,000 acres. Bezos’ maternal grandmother was Mattie Louise Gise (Strait), which makes him a cousin of famed country singer George Straight.
Throughout his young life, Bezos displayed an interest in science and technology. He once rigged an alarm so that his siblings would stay out of his bedroom. This was perhaps an indication that Bezos would grow up to be a leader in technology and put his abilities to make effective products to good use.
When Bezos was a little older, his family moved to Miami, where he attended Miami Palmetto High School. As a high school student, he worked as a short-order line cook during breakfast hours at McDonald’s. Bezos also attended the Student Science Training Program at the University of Florida. He was valedictorian of his class, a National Merit Scholar and won the Silver Knight Award in 1982. During his graduation speech, Bezos told the audience that he dreamed of a day when people would colonize space. A local newspaper stated Bezos intentions to “get all the people off the Earth and see it turned into a huge national park.”
Jeff Bezos graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and has a 4.2 GPA. He earned Bachelor of Science degrees in computer science and electrical engineering and was a Phi Beta Kappa member. During his time at Princeton, Bezos was elected to Tau Beta Pi and was president of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space Princeton chapter.
The Rise of Amazon
In 1998, Jeff Bezos diversified into online music and video sales. By the close of the year, he has expanded Amazon’s products to include several consume goods. Bezos used the $54 million raised during Amazon’s equity offering in 1997 to finance the acquisition of smaller competing companies.
Bezos borrowed $2 million from banks in 2000 when Amazon’s cash balances went down on just $350 million. Two years later, the company introduced Amazon Web Services, which offered data from website traffic and weather channels. Later in 2002, Amazon was in financial distress because the company’s revenue was at a standstill. After Amazon almost went bankrupt, Bezos closed all the company’s distribution centers and laid off 14% of his workers.
In 2003, Amazon bounced back and turned a $400 million profit. In 2007, Bezos introduced Amazon Kindle. According to a profile in Time in 2008, Bezos wanted to create the same flow state in video games for books. He wanted readers to immerse themselves in what they were reading.
In 2013, Jeff Bezos secured a contract for $600 million with the CIA on behalf of Amazon Web Services. That year, Amazon was recognized as the world’s largest online shopping retailer.
Amazon Under Fire
While Amazon has been wildly successful, Bezos and his company were not without criticism. In September 2018, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the Stop By Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (Stop BEZOS) Act.
Senator sanders accused Amazon of receiving corporate welfare after revelations by New Food Economy which revealed that a third of Arizona Amazon workers and one-tenth of Amazon employees in Ohio and Pennsylvania had to use food stamps to feed themselves and their families. While preparing to debut the bill, Sanders stated that instead of trying to explore the moon or Mars, Bezos should be paying his employees a living wage. Sanders also asserted that Bezos could play a huge role in bettering people’s financial situations. Sanders stated that Bezos could play a huge role in other corporations by paying their workers fairly.
In October 2018, Jeff Bezos announced that he would be increasing the wages for all his employees. Senator Sanders applauded him for his efforts. Amazon workers in the U.S. were being paid the minimum wage, and their hourly rate went from $7.25 to $15 per hour. This decision was seen as support for the Fight for $15 movement. The movement has gained more traction as a result of the Amazon pay increase, and other companies have started to follow Bezos’ example. Even though many feel that Bezos only made this decision due to pressure from Senator Sanders, it has benefitted several employees and their families.
Bezos founded Blue Origin in September, 2000. Blue Origin is a human spaceflight startup.
Bezos had expressed an interest in development of human life in the solar system and space travel for quite some time, and Blue Origin was his chance to explore this further. When the Miami Herald quote Bezos’ valedictorian speech at his high school graduation, the publication also pointed out that Bezos stated his wanted to build colonies for human beings in orbit, as well as amusement parks and hotels in space. Bezos stated that he wanted to do this to keep Earth’s resources from being depleted.
After Blue Origin was founded, the company had a relatively low profile until 2006, when it purchased land in West Texas to use as a test and launch facility. After Blue Origin become well-known to the public in the late 2000s, Bezos also indicated that he wanted to lower the cost of space travel for humans while making extraterrestrial travel safer. After Blue Origin’s unmanned prototype vehicles crashed during a test flight in September 2011, Bezos viewed the incident as a setback. Various news outlets, however, noted the success of Blue Origin in making significant strides in advancing spaceflight.
In May 2013, Bezos had a meeting with Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic chairman, to talk about commercial spaceflight strategies and opportunities. Bezos has often been compared to Branson and Elon Musk – all three men are millionaires and have a vested interested in spaceflight.
Bezos announced in 2015 that a new orbital launch vehicle was under development and would fly for the first time in the late 2010s. In November 2015, the New Shepard space vehicle from Blue Origin rocketed into space successfully and reached its planned altitude of 329,839 feet before landing back at the West Texas launching site. In 2016, Bezos permitted a few journalists to visit the Blue Origin testing site, tour the grounds and take photos.
He has called for more interspace energy and industrial manufacturing several times to cut down on negative costs connected to pollution created by businesses.
Bezos as a Public Figure
Recently, Bezos has been in the news due to his public divorce from his wife and MacKenzie Tuttle, who helped him start Amazon.
The former couple have four children together.
Bezos also began a public relationship with former entertainment reporter Lauren Sanchez. The attention surrounding Bezos’ personal life has caused some to be skeptical about shopping on Amazon, but most of the consuming public has still decided to patronize Amazon due to the variety of goods and fast delivery times.
Nellie Bowles, a New York Times journalist, described Bezos’ public image and personality as “brilliant but mysterious.” Bowles also stated that Bezos was a “coldblooded corporate titan.” In the 1990s, Bezos earned a reputation for being determined to push Amazon forward, even when social welfare and public charity were on the line. His business practices sent a public message of selfishness with his wealth and Amazon’s profits. Bezos was also known as frugal, since it has been said he hung his clothing on a rack at the Amazon headquarters. And though he could afford any car he wanted, he drove a 1996 Honda Accord. In the early 2000s, the public saw him as nerdy and geeky, which made him more trustworthy.
Bezos had a reputation for being very data-driven as well. He was constantly compiling and interpreting lists and being calculated in his decisions. Certain parts of Bezos’ personality have been called into question over the years. For instance, journalist Brad Stone stated in his book that Bezos was demanding as a boss and very competitive. Bezos has been cited as a CEO who takes advantage of every opportunity and doesn’t have much concern for challenges or obstacles. Bezos challenged this perception. His former wife and some of his employees have also stated that Bezos has been mischaracterized. However, many of the traits that journalists have used to describe Bezos are necessary to run successful corporations.
Bezos’ public image began to shift in the early 2010s. He started lifting weights and wearing tailored clothing and began spending his money freely.
Many see Bezos’ transformation in comparison to the modern look and advancement of Amazon. Bezos has even been portrayed on Saturday Night Live by actors Steve Carell and Kyle Mooney, where his dominating reputation was showcased in a comedic fashion.
The late 2010s was also the time Bezos changed his reputation for being apprehensive about spending money on expenses that were not related to business. Compared to other billionaires, he didn’t participate much in philanthropy, which has garnered public criticism since 2016. So, Bezos founded Bezos Expeditions, and money from the foundation has been used to fund the Day 1 Families Fund for financing day care center and shelters for homeless families and the Day 1 Academies Fund to help pay for early childhood education.
Bezos made a $33 million donation to TheDream.US in 2018, which is a college scholarship for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors. In September 2018, he made a donation of $10 million to With Honor a nonpartisan group that works to increase the number of military veterans in political office. And most recently, he’s donated $100 million to fight homelessness.
Despite criticism for some of his professional and personal decision, Bezos continues to be one of the most prominent businessmen of modern times. Due to his innovation and willingness to take risks, Amazon, as well as Bezos’ additional business ventures, are likely to be successful for years to come.
How Much Is Jeff Bezos Worth?
As of November 2019, Bezos’ net worth is $111.4 billion.