Jeff Bezos just turned 57. Here’s how he built Amazon into a $1.56 trillion company and became the world’s richest person. (AMZN)

January 13, 2021 by No Comments

Summary List PlacementHappy birthday, Jeff Bezos: the Amazon CEO turns 57 on Tuesday. 
Bezos, who incorporated the company in 1994, has had a tumultuous 18 months, beginning with a divorce and a leak of his personal messages to the National Enquirer. 
But it hasn’t been all bad for Bezos: he’s jetted across the globe with his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, he’s attended the exclusive Met Gala, and, last year, he celebrated another successful Prime Day with Katy Perry, Lil Nas X, and 45,000 Amazon employees. Over the last several months, Amazon has seen a surge in demand as the coronavirus outbreak has forced people to shop online more than ever. And as Amazon’s stock has hit new highs, Bezos’ net worth has jumped as well: These days, he’s worth $183 billion, according to Bloomberg.
That success hasn’t come overnight, however. Bezos began his career in the hedge fund world in the ’90s, then left a cushy job to launch his own startup. 
Here’s how Bezos got his start, and built one of the largest tech companies in the world.
Allana Akhtar contributed to an earlier version of this story.SEE ALSO: Elon Musk made a jab at Facebook, linking the rampage at the Capitol to the social network. It’s the latest insult in a years-long feud between Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.
Jeff Bezos’ mom, Jackie, was a teenager when she had him in January 1964. She had recently married Cuban immigrant Miguel Bezos, who adopted Jeff. Jeff didn’t learn that Miguel wasn’t his real father until he was 10, but says he was more fazed about learning he needed to get glasses than he was about the news.

Source: Wired
When Bezos was 4, his mother told his biological father, who previously had worked as a circus performer, to stay out of their lives. When Brad Stone interviewed Bezos’ biological father for Stone’s book “The Everything Store,” Bezos’ dad had no idea who his son had become.

Source: The Everything Store
Bezos showed signs of brilliance from an early age. When he was a toddler, he took apart his crib with a screwdriver because he wanted to sleep in a real bed.

Source: The Everything Store
From ages 4 to 16, Bezos spent summers on his grandparents’ ranch in Texas, doing things like repairing windmills and castrating bulls.

Source: The Everything Store
His grandfather, Preston Gise, was a huge inspiration for Bezos and helped kindle his passion for intellectual pursuits. At a commencement address in 2010, Bezos said Gise taught him “it’s harder to be kind than clever.”

Source: Business Insider
Bezos fell in love with reruns of the original “Star Trek” and became a fan of later versions too. Early on, he considered naming Amazon MakeItSo.com, a reference to a line from Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

Source: The Everything Store
In school, Bezos told teachers “the future of mankind is not on this planet.” As a kid, he wanted to be a space entrepreneur — now, he owns a space-exploration company called Blue Origin.

Source: Wired
After spending a miserable summer working at McDonald’s as a teen, Bezos, together with his girlfriend, started the Dream Institute, a 10-day summer camp for kids. They charged $600 a kid and managed to sign up six students. The “Lord of the Rings” series made the required reading list.

Source: Wired
Bezos eventually went to college at Princeton University and majored in computer science. Upon graduation, he turned down job offers from Intel and Bell Labs to join a startup called Fitel.

Source: The Everything Store
After he quit Fitel, Bezos considered partnering with Halsey Minor — who would later found CNET — to launch a startup that would deliver news by fax.

Source: Wired
Instead, he got a job at the hedge fund D.E. Shaw. He became a senior vice president after only four years.

Source: The Everything Store
Meanwhile, Bezos was taking ballroom dancing classes as part of a scheme to increase his “women flow.” Just as Wall Streeters have a process for increasing their “deal flow,” Bezos thought analytically about meeting women.

Source: The Everything Store
He married MacKenzie Tuttle, a D.E. Shaw research associate, in 1993. She’s now a novelist. The couple had four kids together.

Source: The Everything Store
In 1994, Bezos read that the web had grown 2,300% in one year. This number astounded him, and he decided he needed to find some way to take advantage of its rapid growth. He made a list of 20 possible products to sell online and decided books were the best option.

Source: The Everything Store
Bezos decided to leave D.E. Shaw even though he had a great job. His boss at the firm, David E. Shaw, tried to persuade Bezos to stay. But Bezos was already determined to start his own company — he felt he’d rather try and fail at a startup than never try at all.

“When you are in the thick of things, you can get confused by small stuff,” he said later. “I knew when I was 80 that I would never, for example, think about why I walked away from my 1994 Wall Street bonus right in the middle of the year at the worst possible time. That kind of thing just isn’t something you worry about when you’re 80 years old.”
“At the same time, I knew that I might sincerely regret not having participated in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a revolutionizing event,” he added. “When I thought about it that way … it was incredibly easy to make the decision.”
Source: Wired
And so Amazon was born. MacKenzie and Jeff flew to Texas to borrow a car from his father, and then they drove to Seattle. Bezos was making revenue projections in the passenger seat the whole way, though the couple did stop to watch the sunrise at the Grand Canyon.

Source: The Everything Store
Bezos started Amazon.com in a garage with a potbelly stove. He held most of his meetings at the neighborhood Barnes & Noble.

Source: Wired
In the early days, a bell would ring in the office every time someone made a purchase, and everyone would gather around to see whether anyone knew the customer. It took only a few weeks before it was ringing so often they had to make it stop.

Learn more about some of Amazon’s early employees here. 
In the first month of its launch, Amazon sold books to people in all 50 states and in 45 different countries. And it continued to grow: Amazon went public on May 15, 1997.

Source: Business Insider
When the dot-com crash came, analysts called the company “Amazon.bomb.” But it weathered the storm and ended up being one of the few startups that wasn’t wiped out by the dot-com bust.

Amazon has now gone beyond selling books to offering almost everything you can imagine, including appliances, clothing, and even cloud computing services.

In the early days, Bezos was a demanding boss and could explode at employees. Rumor has it he hired a leadership coach to help him tone it down.

Here are some of the strategies Bezos used in building his Amazon empire. 
Bezos is known for banning PowerPoint presentations at Amazon. Instead, he requires his staff to turn in papers of a specific length on their proposals to encourage critical thinking over simplistic bullet points.

Source: The Everything Store
Bezos is also known for creating a frugal company culture that doesn’t offer perks like free food or massages.

In 1998, Bezos became an early investor in Google. He invested $250,000, which was worth about 3.3 million shares when the company went public in 2004. Those would be worth billions today (Bezos hasn’t said whether he kept any of his stock after the initial public offering).

Source: All Things D
What does Bezos do with all his money? In 2012, he donated $2.5 million to defend gay marriage in Washington.

Source: The Washington Post
Bezos has also donated $42 million and part of his land in Texas to the construction of The Clock Of The Long Now, an underground timepiece designed to work for 10,000 years.

Source: Business Insider
In August 2013, Bezos bought The Washington Post for $250 million.

Source: The Washington Post
His space company Blue Origin made history in 2015 when it became one of the first commercial companies to successfully launch a reusable rocket.

Source: Business Insider
Bezos’ interest in flying has gotten him into trouble in the past. In 2003, Bezos almost died in a helicopter crash in Texas while scouting a site for a test-launch facility for Blue Origin.

Source: CNN
But in early 2016, he flew his personal jet to Germany to pick up and bring home Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter who had been detained by Iran.

Source: Business Insider
Bezos is said to own a 5.35-acre estate on Seattle’s Lake Washington that includes 200 yards of shoreline.

Source: Curbed Seattle
He bought a seven-bedroom, $24.5 million mansion in Beverly Hills in 2007. There’s a greenhouse, tennis court, pool, and guest house on the property, and it neighbors Tom Cruise’s estate.

Source: Forbes
In January 2017, Bezos purchased the Textile Museum, a pair of mansions in Washington, D.C.’s Kalorama neighborhood. The property sold for $23 million and is the largest in Washington. He’s currently spending $12 million to renovate the place.

Source: The Washington Post, Business Insider
Here’s another look at the mansions.

Bezos also owns four apartments at 212 Fifth Avenue in New York City. His most recent purchase in the building was last April, when he paid a reported $16 million for a three-bedroom unit, bringing his total real estate holdings in the building to nearly $100 million.

Source: Forbes, Business Insider
In February 2020, Bezos became the new owner of the Warner estate, a sprawling compound in Beverly Hills, California, that he reportedly purchased for $165 million. A few months later, Bezos added to the compound with an adjacent house worth $10 million.

Source: Business Insider
Now, more than 20 years after going public, Amazon has a market cap of over $1.56 trillion.

Source: Markets Insider
In August 2017, Amazon officially acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. The Amazon influence became immediately clear: Customers who are Amazon Prime subscribers can get 10% of sale prices, and you’ll see some Amazon branded items offered, including tech products like the popular Amazon Echo line.

Source: Business Insider
In July 2017, Bezos became the world’s richest person for the first time, surpassing Microsoft founder Bill Gates. At the time, his net worth was more than $90 billion.

Source: Markets Insider, Forbes
Despite his high net worth, Bezos doesn’t actually take home a high salary, comparatively speaking: His annual salary comes out to $81,840, according to Bloomberg.

Source: Bloomberg
In January 2019, Bezos and his wife of 25 years, novelist MacKenzie Bezos, announced they were divorcing. “As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends,” the couple wrote in the statement. “If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again.”

Tweet Embed: //twitter.com/mims/statuses/1083004911380393985?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw pic.twitter.com/Gb10BDb0x0
 
Shortly after the Bezoses announced their divorce last January, news broke that Bezos was dating TV host and helicopter pilot Lauren Sanchez.

At the time, the National Enquirer said it had conducted a four-month investigation into Bezos and Sanchez’s relationship and had obtained texts and explicit photos the couple had sent to each other.
Almost immediately, questions arose about the Enquirer’s motives for investigating Bezos and Sanchez and the tabloid’s connection to President Trump — Bezos immediately launched an investigation into who had leaked his personal messages.
Then, in February, Bezos dropped a bombshell of his own: an explosive blog post titled “No thank you, Mr. Pecker,” in which he accused Pecker and AMI of trying to blackmail him. As a result, Bezos published the emails he’d received from AMI.
“Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten,” Bezos wrote.
The Bezoses announced on Twitter they had finalized the term of their divorce in April 2019. MacKenzie retained more than $35 billion in Amazon stock, making her one of the world’s richest women.

Source: Business Insider
Since then, Bezos and Sanchez have had a whirlwind two years, attending Wimbledon together, yachting with other moguls and celebrities, and vacationing in Saint-Tropez and St. Barths.

Source: Business Insider
During the coronavirus outbreak, Amazon saw a surge in demand as more people were forced to shop online. Amazon created more jobs and raised pay for workers, but Bezos and the company faced scrutiny over worker safety during the outbreak.

Source: Business Insider
The company is also facing antitrust concerns, particularly the company’s practices when it comes to third-party sellers on its platform. Bezos and other major tech CEOs will testified in front of Congress at the end of July.

Source: Business Insider
Read more: America wanted its first unfiltered look at Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person. The Amazon CEO used caution and skill to stay out of the spotlight.
After the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed, Bezos was outspoken about his support for the Black Lives Matter movement, publicly shaming customers who sent racist emails about his and Amazon’s support. In an Instagram post, he posted a screenshot of a customer email and described the man as “the kind of customer I’m happy to lose.”

Source: Business Insider
In recent weeks, Bezos and Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk have seen their respective net worths spike. The two moguls have flip-flopped for the spot of world’s richest person, though it appears Bezos is staying on top with a fortune worth $183 billion.

Source: Business Insider, Bloomberg

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