How the Amazon founder went from nerd promoting books to celeb rocket man.
In a Groundhog Day shock, Jeff Bezos has introduced that he’s stepping apart because the CEO of Amazon. He’ll grow to be govt chair of the Amazon board, and Andy Jassy, the present CEO of Amazon Internet Companies, will grow to be the brand new chief govt later this yr. Bezos says this transition will give him extra time to personal an area firm (Blue Origin), personal a newspaper (the Washington Submit), personal a philanthropic fund (Day 1 Fund), and customarily simply personal the truth that he’s one of many richest males on the planet. The Amazon founder says he’s “enthusiastic about this transition.”
The timing of the announcement might sound odd at first. It was just a few hours after Amazon revealed the design of its HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia, and after the Federal Commerce Fee (FTC) ordered Amazon to pay almost $62 million over taking ideas meant for its supply drivers. However for Bezos, these should be minor headlines. The day that the 57-year-old entrepreneur lets another person sit within the CEO seat would be the day that Jeff Bezos completes his transformation from nerdy e-commerce wunderkind to muscled media magnate with rockets to fly and galas to attend. Today has been years within the making.
Bezos has been counting, too. As he factors out in his farewell electronic mail to workers, it’s been 27 years since he began the corporate with nothing however an bold thought to create a retailer on the web that bought all the things. (Bezos jokes that the query he received most again then was, “What’s the web?”) After failing to persuade his bosses on the hedge fund D.E. Shaw to again the concept, Bezos began Amazon in 1994. For almost 20 years, he was a low-key CEO — a household man who stated he learn the newspaper, had breakfast together with his children, and received eight hours of sleep an evening.
Not lengthy after Amazon’s market cap cracked $1 trillion for the primary time in 2018, he instructed an viewers on the Financial Membership of Washington, DC, that he didn’t simply consider himself because the richest man on this planet. “I might a lot relatively in the event that they stated, like, ‘inventor Jeff Bezos’ or ‘entrepreneur Jeff Bezos’ or ‘father Jeff Bezos.’ These sorts of issues are rather more significant to me.”
By this level, nonetheless, the transition from CEO dad to titan of business was nicely underway. The method seems to have visibly begun round 2013, when Bezos began shaving his head. That’s additionally the yr he purchased the Washington Submit for $250 million. It’s vital to spotlight the truth that this was a private buy by Jeff Bezos; Amazon had “no function within the buy,” in response to the announcement.
Issues actually took off in 2015, when Blue Origin launched and landed its first reusable rocket. Bezos had really based the small aerospace firm again in 2000 after seeing the favored Jake Gyllenhaal film October Sky, and by 2014, he had spent $500 million of his personal cash on the enterprise. Bezos later revealed that he was promoting about $1 billion a yr in Amazon inventory to fund Blue Origins, in a type of non-public house race with Elon Musk and his aerospace firm SpaceX. However he didn’t name it that. “It’s a mistake to race to a deadline whenever you’re speaking a few flying automobile, particularly one that you just’re going to place individuals on,” Bezos instructed the New York Instances in 2017. “I nonetheless suppose we are able to do industrial paying passengers in 2018.” The corporate has but to ship a human to house.
Bezos hit a special type of milestone in 2018 when he established the Day 1 Fund after changing into the topic of rising scrutiny over how little cash he’d publicly given to charity. Alongside together with his then-wife MacKenzie Scott, the budding philanthropist dedicated $2 billion to “funding present nonprofits that assist homeless households, and making a community of latest, nonprofit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities.” Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott introduced their divorce the next yr. Since then, Scott has begun gifting away her wealth publicly — first signing the Giving Pledge after which revealing on the finish of 2020 that she had given away $four billion in 4 months in 2020. That very same yr, Bezos dedicated $10 billion to struggle local weather change — however once more solely after escalating public strain from Amazon workers to do one thing for the surroundings. And since Bezos at present has a internet price of over $196 billion, it’s secure to say he has extra money to provide away. And regardless of years of criticism, Bezos nonetheless has not signed the Giving Pledge.
After all, one doesn’t grow to be one of many richest males in historical past with out creating some controversy. The FTC high-quality introduced Tuesday represents simply certainly one of many labor scandals Amazon has confronted in recent times. Some Amazon warehouse employees have lengthy decried the corporate’s labor practices, saying they take care of dismal security requirements, back-breaking labor with little day without work, and the usage of contract positions that supply no advantages. Below Bezos, Amazon has additionally gone to nice lengths to forestall its employees from organizing. The corporate has been cracking down on unionization efforts particularly arduous throughout the pandemic, most not too long ago in Bessemer, Alabama, the place warehouse employees will vote on whether or not to unionize later this month.
Bezos appears considerably conscious of this side of his legacy at Amazon. In asserting his departure as CEO, he praised the corporate’s “inventiveness” and bragged that, in its dedication to the Local weather Pledge and a $15 minimal wage, Amazon “staked out management positions after which requested others to return alongside.” Much like his late arrival to the philanthropy scene, Bezos solely took the Local weather Pledge and raised his firm’s minimal wage after large strain from rank-and-file Amazon workers, politicians like Bernie Sanders, and the general public.
However whereas Bezos the businessman was launching all these ventures and making all this cash previously decade, he was additionally going via some private adjustments. Once more, the method actually began across the time Bezos purchased the Washington Submit. A couple of months earlier than the acquisition was introduced, he had been named honorary chair of the Met Gala in 2012, and as Amazon fired up its leisure division, Amazon Studios, we began to see Bezos on the pink carpet in a tuxedo rather more usually. Then, in 2017, there was the well-known sequence of pictures taken at Solar Valley — the one with Jeff and the muscle mass and the sun shades. All of a sudden, this nerdy tech man appeared like he was making an attempt to be extraordinarily cool.
Bezos additionally purchased some new homes throughout this era. He purchased a 27,000-square-foot former museum close to the Obamas within the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, DC, in 2015 for $23 million, after which final yr, he purchased the previous house of the late Hollywood studio mogul Jack Warner in Beverly Hills for a record-setting $165 million. Bezos already owned loads of homes, together with a 300,000-acre ranch in Texas, however these new homes put him yards away from enormous celebrities. That is applicable as Bezos turned an everyday attendee at Oscar events and have become extra of a celeb himself, more and more attracting the eye of paparazzi and the tabloids. And who may overlook the time he received in a public spat with the Nationwide Enquirer over some dick pics?
Squinting again via the years, it’s arduous to see the dorky man who began Amazon within the ’90s. It’s virtually as if that man retreated into an workplace in Seattle someday round Y2K and emerged a decade later with a chiseled physique, a community of mansions presumably stuffed with Hollywood stars, and a plan to fly vacationers to the moon. And he was nonetheless operating Amazon!
Now that Jeff Bezos will not be Amazon’s CEO, he received’t have to fret as a lot in regards to the mounting scrutiny over Amazon’s unchecked energy or the volley of antitrust instances the corporate faces within the US and overseas. He additionally most likely received’t should sweat via any extra congressional hearings. That stuff can be Jassy’s job now.
As a substitute, Bezos could have extra time to pursue his October Sky-inspired desires, to host fundraisers in his former museum of a house, and to work out. And if he actually does need to be extra concerned on the Washington Submit on high of all these thrilling tasks, the paper wants a brand new editor.