Jeff Bezos was born on January 12, 1964, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After earning a degree in computer science and electrical engineering at Princeton University in 1986, he worked for several Wall Street firms including Fitel, Bankers Trust, and the D.E. Shaw Group, where in 1990 he became the company's youngest vice president.
In 1994 Bezos left D.E. Shaw to create Amazon.com, an Internet bookstore which he named after the famous river in South America. The company launched on July 16, 1995 and quickly became a huge success, selling books to customers in more than 45 countries during its very first month. Amazon went public in 1997 and subsequently expanded its product line to include the sale of CDs and videos the following year. Later, it began to sell all manner of merchandise through partnerships with major retailers and independent merchants. The company's annual sales grew from $510,000 in 1995 to more than $17 billion in 2011, to $178 billion in 2017.
On June 15, 2012, it was reported that Bezos and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were planning to announce the launch of the Kindle Mobile Learning Initiative (KMLI), a “public-private partnership” between Amazon and the U.S. government. According to The Hill, the purpose of this “global e-reader program” would be to “introduc[e] aspects of U.S. society and culture directly to young people, students, and international audiences in new ways.” But KMLI was canceled even before it got off the ground, because its selected e-reader was not compliant with federal Section 508 requirements pertaining to information access for persons with disabilities.
In July 2012, Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, announced that they had agreed to donate $2.5 million to help pass Referendum 74, which called for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington State. As a New York Times blog post noted at the time, this was “a game-changing gift” that “instantly” placed Mr. and Mrs. Bezos “among the largest financial backers of gay marriage rights in the country.” That November, Referendum 74 narrowly passed by a margin of about 3 percentage points.
On August 5, 2013, Bezos spent $250 million to purchase The Washington Post and other publications affiliated with its parent company, The Washington Post Co.
In December 2016, Bezos joined with Bill Gates and a number of other wealthy investors to create Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a $1 billion fund that would put money into “green energy” initiatives over the ensuing 20 years.
In January 2017, Bezos denounced the executive order by which President Donald Trump sought to temporarily deny entry to the United States for citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations that were known hotbeds of Islamic terrorism. In an email message to all Amazon employees, Bezos wrote: “This executive order is one we do not support. … Our legal team has prepared a declaration of support for the Washington State Attorney General who will be filing suit against the order. We are working other legal options as well. We’re a nation of immigrants whose diverse backgrounds, ideas, and points of view have helped us build and invent as a nation for over 240 years. No nation is better at harnessing the energies and talents of immigrants. It’s a distinctive competitive advantage for our country—one we should not weaken.”
In June 2017, Bezos voiced his wish to “protect” the earth from the possibility that the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with industrial civilization might eventually cause the planet to become “a retrograde world where we have to freeze population growth” in order to avoid an environmental catastrophe with existential implications. Asserting that “all of our heavy industry” should “be moved off-planet” over the course of “the next few hundred years,” he added: “Earth will be zoned residential and light industrial. You shouldn’t be doing heavy energy on earth. We can build gigantic chip factories in space.”
In October 2017, Bezos, Hillary Clinton, and Democratic U.S. Senator Kamala Harris were among the featured speakers at the annual Human Rights Campaign National Dinner in Washington, DC.
Bezos has been an avid supporter of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive action through which then-President Barack Obama granted most DREAM Act-eligible individuals temporary legal status, work permits, access to certain publicly funded social services, and protection from deportation. In January 2018, Bezos announced that he was donating $33 million to fund scholarships – valued at $33,000 apiece – to cover college tuition expenses for 1,000 illegal-alien high-school students who were DACA beneficiaries. He gave this money to TheDream.US, a nonprofit education group dedicated to helping DACA students pay for college.
As of March 2018, Bezos's net worth was $127 billion, makng him the wealthiest person in the world. His principal residence is a $25 million lake house in Medina, Washington. He also owns a 27,000-square-foot home worth about $23 million in the District of Columbia, a 2-acre property in Beverly Hills that is valued at approximately $25 million, and a $65 million private jet.
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