When talking about billionaires such as Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who is now the world's richest man ever with a net worth of more than $154 billion as of June 2019, people often pose the question of what one could possibly find to do with that much money. Jeff Bezos has literally dozens of ideas that span a broad range of investments, all the way from real estate to the retrieval of rocket ship engines from the ocean floor.
Bezos even has a website, BezosExpeditions.com, that provides a rundown of 20 or so of his major investments and charitable donations. The name "expeditions" is appropriate since Bezos' investments are not concentrated in just one or two industries or even market sectors; rather, they represent a far-flung exploration of many different business areas and ideas, including virtual reality, media, cloud computing, and homespun arts and crafts.
The Way-Out-There Ideas
Two of Bezos' investments that engender a lot of discussions and that are considered a bit off-the-wall are the 10,000-year clock and the F-1 engine retrieval project. The 10,000-year clock project is an effort to build a clock into the side of the Sierra Diablo mountain range in Texas, a clock that literally keeps on ticking for 10,000 years. The clock is planned to have a chime generator that generates a different chime sound for each day. Just coming up with 10,000 x 365 different chime sounds like a pretty daunting challenge. Bezos explained the need for the clock by saying today's global problems require "long-term thinking."
The F-1 engine retrieval project is an effort to salvage the engines that powered the Apollo 11 flight to the moon from the ocean floor. Bezos assumes NASA would likely donate the engines to the Smithsonian.
Media, High Tech, Glass, and Travel
Bezos has an affinity for the technology sector, for media and communication services that facilitate connecting people, and also for just what he considers to be potentially profitable investments. In the media and communications sector, Bezos has invested in Twitter, Inc. and has committed nearly $50 million in venture capital to the popular business news website Business Insider. He acquired The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million. TeachStreet, Inc., ZocDoc, Inc., and Nextdoor are all platforms for connecting people in which Bezos has invested. Bezos Expeditions has also invested in UNITY Biotechnology, Inc., a healthcare startup targeting diseases related to aging.
In the travel sector, Bezos has invested $112 million and $35 million, respectively, in series B financing of Airbnb and transportation service Uber. Bezos is a big believer in the cloud, as evidenced by Amazon's major push into providing cloud computing services. However, his investment interest does not end with his own company. One of his notable investment successes is Workday, Inc., a company that provides human resource services in the cloud. Shortly after Bezos' venture capital investment in the company, it went public in an initial public offering (IPO) that garnered $684 million. In the sphere of a more traditional retail business, Bezos has also invested in Glassybaby, a company that makes glass-blown holders for votive candles.
Bezos also has substantial holdings in more traditional investments such as real estate. His 165,000-acre Corn Ranch in Texas was acquired as the base of operations for his aerospace company, Blue Origin, and serves as the test site for the vertical-landing manned suborbital New Shepard rocket.
His personal real estate includes holdings on both the east and west coasts. Bezos has two multi-million dollar homes in Beverly Hills and a 10,000-square-foot apartment in the Century Tower in Manhattan that cost him just under $10 million. Bezos' New York presence is reported to have boosted Century Tower property values even higher, with space selling for $2,000 to $3,000 per square foot. He also has a lakeside property in Washington State, on which he spent $28 million to increase the living space to almost 30,000 square feet.
In 2012, Amazon bought its own South Lake Union headquarters building in Seattle for $1.5 billion, instantly making the company one of the city's largest commercial property owners. Amazon took possession of nearly a dozen buildings, almost 2 million square feet of office space and approximately 100,000 square feet of retail space. Also in 2012, the company spent about $200 million to purchase a three-block area in downtown Seattle that is being developed as office tower space. In 2014, Amazon spent another $50 million to pick up one more square block. In August 2017, the Seattle Times reported that Amazon had just as much office space as Seattle's next 40 largest employers combined.
Bezos has also invested very sizable sums in giving back through charitable donations. In addition to the Bezos Family Foundation that funds several education projects, Bezos has made individual multimillion-dollar charitable contributions to the Seattle Museum of History and Industry, as well as to his alma mater, Princeton University.
In January 2018, Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, announced a $33 million dollar donation to TheDream.US, an organization working to improve college access for undocumented immigrant youth who were brought to the United States as young children. The grant will provide college scholarships to 1,000 US high school graduates with DACA status.