How Jeff Bezos Became One of the World’s Richest People

Globally, Jeff Bezos is the third-richest person, with his fortune eclipsing the wealth of Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and legendary investor Warren Buffett. As of May 2023, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index lists his net worth as $139 billion.

Bezos is the founder, former chief executive officer (CEO), and now executive chair of the global e-commerce company Amazon. The company accounted for 6.5% of all U.S. retail sales and 44.9% of digital retail spending in 2022. As digitalization and the cloud computing revolution reshapes human behavior, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is forecasted to propel higher.

In May 2023, Bezos reportedly got engaged to Emmy-winning journalist, Lauren Sanchez, according to People. The couple made their relationship public in 2019, after Bezos filed for divorce from his wife of 25 years, Mackenzie Scott.

Scott, who helped Bezos found Amazon, received a 4% stake in the company, worth $36 billion at the time of their divorce. Bezos and his ex-wife reportedly did not have a prenuptial agreement, according to People. However, there are reports that Bezos will likely have a prenup with Lauren Sanchez, according to SheKnows.

Raised by a teen mom and Cuban immigrant stepfather, Bezos once told his schoolteachers, “the future of mankind is not on this planet.” Jeff Bezos' boss discouraged his resigning from his stable job as a hedge fund executive with D. E. Shaw & Co. to start Amazon in 1994.

Key Takeaways

  • Jeff Bezos’ net worth is $139 billion as of May 2023, making him the third-richest person in the world.
  • Bezos is the founder and former chief executive officer (CEO) of Amazon. He remains the executive chair of the company.
  • He holds traditional investments, such as real estate, and shares in other companies.
  • Bezos has funded several education projects through the Bezos Family Foundation.
  • On July 20, 2021, Bezos and three others boarded the New Shepard spacecraft and completed the first successful crewed flight of his space exploration company, Blue Origin.
Jeff Bezos

Investopedia / Joshua Seong

Amazon: Beyond Books

Jeff Bezos graduated from Princeton University with degrees in computer science and electrical engineering. Upon graduating, he turned down offers from Intel and Bell Labs to join a startup called Fitel. He helped launch a news-by-fax service company with Halsey Minor, the founder of CNET, which failed and led Bezos to become the youngest senior vice president at a hedge fund called D. E. Shaw.

Bezos was enthralled that the Internet was growing at 2,300% annually in 1994, and his idea for Amazon was, a platform for selling books, grew out of a garage with his $10,000 investment. Bezos, his wife, and two programmers conducted most meetings at the neighborhood Barnes & Noble. After launching in July 1995, Amazon sold books in every U.S. state and 45 countries.

Beating Expectations

Bezos tried to raise capital by estimating $74 million in sales by 2000, far below the reality: $1.64 billion in sales in 1999 alone. He gathered $1 million in seed funding from angel investors after investments from his family.The first approximately 20 investors in Amazon with a $50,000 stake rounded to 1% would grow to be worth $3.5 billion, representing a 70-times return in about 20 years.

In June 1996, Amazon raised another $8 million in Series A from venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. Amazon went public in May 1997 and was one of the few startups that survived the dot-com bust. Annual sales skyrocketed from $511,000 in 1995 to over $3 billion in 2001.

Amazon’s share price reflects its phenomenal growth. The stock increased about 450% from January 2016 to January 2021 and rose 60% from January 2020 to January 2021 alone. Bezos owns 12.7% of Amazon as of 2022, making it a source of his wealth. The company’s 2022 annual meeting announcement showed Bezos owning more than 64.5 million shares.

$514 billion

Amazon boasted $514 billion in net sales in the 2022 fiscal year.

Real Estate

Jeff Bezos has holdings in 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 homes include multimillion-dollar holdings on the East and West Coasts in Beverly Hills and Manhattan. Bezos’ New York presence is reported to have boosted Century Tower property values, 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, making it one of the 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. In August 2017, The Seattle Times reported Amazon had as much office space as the region's 40 largest employers combined, at 8.1 million square feet. 

Charitable Donations

Jeff Bezos has invested sizable sums in charitable donations. In addition to the Bezos Family Foundation funding several education projects, Bezos has made multimillion-dollar charitable contributions to Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry and his alma mater, Princeton University.

In January 2018, Bezos and his now ex-wife, MacKenzie, pledged $33 million to TheDream.US, an organization working to improve college access for undocumented immigrant youth brought to the United States as young children. The grant provides college scholarships to 1,000 U.S. high school graduates with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. 

Media, High Tech, Glass, and Travel

Bezos has an affinity for the technology sector and media and communication services that connect people. Bezos invested in Twitter Inc. and the popular business news website Business Insider. In 1998, Bezos became an early investor in Google. While he hasn’t revealed what amount of the stock he owns after its initial public offering in 2004, his $250,000 investment is likely worth billions today. Zocdoc Inc. and Nextdoor are platforms for connecting people in which Bezos has also invested.

Jeff Bezos has invested more than $30 million in the transportation company Uber. One of his notable investment successes is Workday Inc. which 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 more than $684 million. Bezos has also invested in glassybaby, which makes glass-blown holders for votive candles.

In August 2013, Bezos bought The Washington Post for $250 million. Its audience and traffic exploded, surpassing The New York Times for the first time in terms of U.S. unique web viewers in October 2015.

The Way-out-There Ideas

In 2013, Bezos revealed his plans for the company’s revolutionary Amazon Prime subscription business would use drones to make deliveries to customers. In 2022, the first Amazon Prime Air drone deliveries began servicing limited areas with plans for future expansion.

Bezo invested in the 10,000-year clock project to build a clock into the side of the Sierra Diablo mountain range in Texas and ticking for 10,000 years. The clock will have a chime generator that generates a different chime sound each day. Bezos explained the clock's need by saying today’s global problems require “long-term thinking.”

The F-1 engine retrieval project salvaged engines that powered the Apollo 11 flight to the moon from the Atlantic Ocean. Artifacts were recovered to fashion displays out of two F-1 engines. The artifacts were donated to The Museum of Flight in Seattle in 2015. With his booming wealth, Bezos fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a space entrepreneur.

Each year, Bezos commits $1 billion to his space exploration company, Blue Origin, which, in 2016, became one of the first commercial companies to launch a reusable rocket. On July 18, 2018, Blue Origin sent the New Shepard spacecraft to a high altitude to test its safety systems, which worked. On July 20, 2021, Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and Dutch student Oliver Daemen boarded the New Shepard and completed Blue Origin’s first successful crewed flight, reaching an altitude of just above 62 miles before landing safely.

How Much Money Does Jeff Bezos Have?

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Jeff Bezos has a net worth of $139 billion as of May 2023. Given that his 12.7% Amazon stake accounts for a large portion of his wealth, his net worth can fluctuate significantly depending on the value of the company’s stock.

What Companies Does Jeff Bezos Own?

In addition to founding Amazon, Bezos also owns The Washington Post and space exploration company Blue Origin.

What Companies Are in Jeff Bezos’ Stock Portfolio?

In addition to his 12.7% stake in Amazon, Bezos has also invested in Twitter Inc. (now X Corp), Uber, Airbnb, and Business Insider.

The Bottom Line

Jeff Bezos lost the title of the richest man on Earth in 2021, but he remains the third wealthiest person in 2023. Only Bernard Arnault of France, and Elon Musk, exceed Bezos' wealth. Bezos is the founder and former chief executive officer (CEO) of Amazon and remains its executive chair.

Article Sources
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