After Bezos graduated college in 1986, he was offered jobs at Intel, Bell Labs, and Andersen Consulting, among others. He first worked at Fitel, a fintech telecommunications start-up, where he was tasked with building a network for international trade. Bezos was promoted to head of development and director of customer service thereafter. He transitioned into the banking industry when he became a product manager at Bankers Trust. He worked there from 1988 to 1990. He then joined D. E. Shaw & Co, a newly founded hedge fund with a strong emphasis on mathematical modelling in 1990 and worked there until 1994. Bezos became D. E. Shaw's fourth senior vice-president at age 30.
Main article: Amazon
Bezos (center) at a cooperative for robotics in 2005
In late 1993, Bezos decided to establish an online bookstore. He left his job at D. E. Shaw and founded Amazon in his garage on July 5, 1994, after writing its business plan on a cross-country drive from New York City to Seattle. Prior to settling on Seattle, Bezos had investigated setting up his company at an Indian reservation near San Francisco in order to avoid paying taxes. Bezos initially named his new company Cadabra but later changed the name to Amazon after the Amazon River in South America, in part because the name begins with the letter A, which is at the beginning of the alphabet. He accepted an estimated $300,000 from his parents and invested in Amazon. He warned many early investors that there was a 70% chance that Amazon would fail or go bankrupt. Although Amazon was originally an online bookstore, Bezos had always planned to expand to other products. Three years after Bezos founded Amazon, he took it public with an initial public offering (IPO). In response to critical reports from Fortune and Barron's, Bezos maintained that the growth of the Internet would overtake competition from larger book retailers such as Borders and Barnes & Noble.
In 1998, Bezos diversified into the online sale of music and video, and by the end of the year he had expanded the company's products to include a variety of other consumer goods. Bezos used the $54 million raised during the company's 1997 equity offering to finance aggressive acquisition of smaller competitors. In 2000, Bezos borrowed $2 billion from banks, as its cash balances dipped to only $350 million. In 2002, Bezos led Amazon to launch Amazon Web Services, which compiled data from weather channels and website traffic. In late 2002, rapid spending from Amazon caused it financial distress when revenues stagnated. After the company nearly went bankrupt, he closed distribution centers and laid off 14% of the Amazon workforce. In 2003, Amazon rebounded from financial instability and turned a profit of $400 million. [failed verification] In November 2007, Bezos launched the Amazon Kindle. According to a 2008 Time profile, Bezos wished to create a device that allowed a "flow state" in reading similar to the experience of video games. In 2013, Bezos secured a $600 million contract with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on behalf of Amazon Web Services. In October of that year, Amazon was recognized as the largest online shopping retailer in the world.
Bezos in 2010
In May 2016, Bezos sold slightly more than one million shares of his holdings in the company for $671 million, the largest sum he had ever raised from selling some of his Amazon stock. On August 4, 2016, Bezos sold another million of his shares for $756.7 million. A year later, Bezos took on 130,000 new employees when he ramped up hiring at company distribution centers. By January 19, 2018, his Amazon stock holdings had appreciated to slightly over $109 billion; months later he began to sell stock to raise cash for other enterprises, in particular, Blue Origin. On January 29, 2018, he was featured in Amazon's Super Bowl commercial. On February 1, 2018, Amazon reported its highest ever profit with quarterly earnings of $2 billion. Due to the growth of Alibaba in China, Bezos has often expressed interest in expanding Amazon into India. On July 27, 2017, Bezos momentarily became the world's wealthiest person over Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates when his estimated net worth increased to just over $90 billion. His wealth surpassed $100 billion for the first time on November 24, 2017, and he was formally designated the wealthiest person in the world by Forbes on March 6, 2018, with a net worth of $112 billion.
In March 2018, Bezos dispatched Amit Agarwal, Amazon's global senior vice president, to India with $5.5 billion to localize operations throughout the company's supply chain routes. Later in the month, U.S. President Donald Trump accused Amazon and Bezos, specifically of sales tax avoidance, misusing postal routes, and anti-competitive business practices. Amazon's share price fell by 9% in response to the President's negative comments; this reduced Bezos's personal wealth by $10.7 billion. Weeks later, Bezos recouped his losses when academic reports out of Stanford University indicated that Trump could do little to regulate Amazon in any meaningful way. During July 2018, a number of members of the U.S. Congress called on Bezos to detail the applications of Amazon's face recognition software, Rekognition. Additionally, statements by the Trump administration, in favor of overturning the antitrust law known as the Paramount Decree, have been predicted to help Amazon acquire the Landmark Theaters chain.
Bezos on October 25, 2017, on his visit to Los Angeles Air Force Base.
Criticism of Amazon's business practices continued in September 2018 when Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (Stop BEZOS) Act and accused Amazon of receiving corporate welfare. This followed revelations by the non-profit group New Food Economy which found that one third of Amazon workers in Arizona, and one tenth of Amazon workers in Pennsylvania and Ohio, relied on food stamps. While preparing to introduce the bill, Sanders opined: "Instead of attempting to explore Mars or go to the moon, how about Jeff Bezos pays his workers a living wage?" He later said: "Bezos could play a profound role. If he said today, nobody who is employed at Amazon will receive less than a living wage, it would send a message to every corporation in America." Sanders's efforts elicited a response from Amazon which pointed to the 130,000 jobs it created in 2017 and called the $28,446 figure for its median salary "misleading" as it included part-time workers. However, Sanders countered that the companies targeted by his proposal have placed an increased focus on part-time workers to escape benefit obligations. On October 2, 2018, Bezos announced a company-wide wage increase, which Sanders applauded. The American workers who were being paid the minimum wage had this increased to $15 per hour, a decision that was interpreted as support for the Fight for $15 movement.
In February 2021, Bezos announced that in the third quarter of 2021 he would step down from his role as CEO of Amazon, to become the Executive Chair of the Amazon Board. He will be replaced as CEO by Andy Jassy. On February 2, 2021, Bezos sent an email to all Amazon employees, telling them the transition would give him "the time and energy [he] need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and other passions.
We will continue tomorrow with Blue Origin.
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