Life and career biography of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Amazon

Jeff Bezos, aka the richest man in the world, created the monster that is Amazon, one of the largest technology companies in the world. Bezos is a household name, but do you even know where the CEO’s surname actually came from? Find out this backstory and more in Ladders’ complete Jeff Bezos profile.

Where is Jeff Bezos from?

albuquerque new mexico
Shutterstock

Bezos was born on January 12, 1964, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At birth he was actually named Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen. After his mother divorced his father, she married Cuban immigrant Miguel “Mike” Bezos in April 1968. At age four, Miguel Bezos adopted him and his surname was then changed to Bezos. The family then moved to Houston, Texas. In high school, the family moved to Miami, Florida.

What is Jeff Bezos’s net worth* over the years?

September 2014: $30.5 billion

March 2015: $34.8 billion

September 2015: $47 billion

March 2016: $45.2 billion

October 2016: $67 billion

March 2017: $72.8 billion

October 2017: $81.5 billion

March 2018: $112 billion

October 2018: $160 billion

March 2019: $131 billion

*According to Forbes

What is Jeff Bezos’s net worth in 2019?

Forbes last reported Jeff Bezos’s net worth to be $115.4 billion in August 2019.

When did Jeff Bezos reach millionaire/billionaire status?

Bezos became a millionaire in 1997 after he raised $54 million through Amazon’s initial public offering. Bezos hit billionaire status two years later in 1999 at 35-years-old. The value in the CEO’s Amazon shares sent him from millionaire to billionaire status.

He was included on the Forbes World’s Billionaires list with a registered net worth of $10.1 billion. The next year Bezos’s net worth plummeted to $6.1 billion, and $2 billion the following year. Bezos quadrupled his net worth from 2005 to 2007, bringing it to $8.7 billion, but was hurt by the financial crisis and economic recession. His net worth dropped to $6.8 billion, but rose to $12.6 billion in 2010. In 2015 Bezos landed himself on the list of top ten richest people in the world with a total net worth of $50.3 billion.

On March 6, 2018, Bezos officially became the richest person in the world with a net worth of $112 billion.

Jeff Bezos’s career path

Fitel

After graduating from Princeton in 1988, Bezos had job offers from Intel, Bell Labs, and Anderson Consulting. Bezos turned those down to start at fintech telecommunications start-up Fitel.

Bankers Trust

In 1988 Bezos transitioned into the banking industry, becoming a product manager at Bankers Trust.

D. E. Shaw & Co.

In 1990 Bezos left Bankers Trust to join a newly founded hedge fund, D. E. Shaw & Co. At 30-years-old, Bezos became the hedge fund’s fourth senior vice-president. Bezos worked here until 1994, when he left to start Amazon after writing up the business plan on a road trip from New York to Seattle.

Amazon

amazon
Mike Mareen / Shutterstock

Bezos drew up the Amazon business plan on a road trip from New York to Seattle. In 1993, he left his job at D.E. Shaw to start Amazon from his garage. He received an estimated $300,000 to invest in Amazon from his parents. He originally titled the company Cadabra, but changed it to name it after the Amazon River. Bezos warned early investors that there was a 70% chance that it would fail.

Bezos founded Amazon as an online bookstore, but always planned to expand to other products. In 1998, the site expanded to offer music, videos, and other consumer goods. In 2002, Bezos led the company to launch Amazon Web Services, which compiled data from weather channels and website traffic. The company nearly went bankrupt in 2002, but it rebounded in 2003 after distribution center closures and workforce layoffs. Amazon launched the Kindle in November 2007.

AmazonFresh is a subsidiary that allows Prime members to order groceries online and have them delivered as soon as the same day. Amazon acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in August 2017, furthering its reach in the grocery industry.

Read our Amazon profile to learn more about one of the world’s most valuable brands, according to Forbes.

Blue Origin

Bezos founded Blue Origin in September 2000. The human spaceflight startup company purchased a large tract of land in West Texas in 2006 for a launch and test facility.

In 2015, Bezos announced that a new orbital launch vehicle was under development. In November of that year, Blue Origin’s New Shepard space vehicle successfully made it to space and reached its planned test altitude. In December 2017, New Shepard successfully landed dummy passengers and adjusted its human space travel start date to 2018, which has since been extended.

In July 2018, Reuters reported that the company plans to charge passengers $200,000 to $300,000 per person.

The New Shepard’s most recent mission way on May 2, its fifth mission to space and back.

On May 9, Blue Origin announced Blue Moon, its large lunar lander that is capable of delivering multiple metric tons of payload to the lunar surface. The company announced that it will be able to put Americans on the moon by 2024 thanks to the Blue Moon lunar lander.

The company also announced Club For the Future, a non-profit that aims to inspire and engage “the next generation of dreamers and space entrepreneurs.” The club, which brings together educators and leader, made its first mission to send a postcard to space and back on a future New Shepard mission.

The Washington Post

the washington post wapo
Nicole S Glass / Shutterstock

Bezos bought The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million. The newspaper has flourished under his ownership, adding more than 200 employees and surpassing one million digital subscribers.

Bezos established Nash Holdings, a limited liability holding company, to execute the purchase. Nash Holdings legally owns the paper as of October 1, 2013. Bezos made his first major change by eliminating the online paywall for subscribers of some local papers in Texas, Hawaii, and Minnesota.

In 2016 Bezos was on a mission to reinvent the newspaper as a media technology company, which ended up being successful as it was profitable for the first time since Bezos purchased it in 2013.

Bezos Expeditions

Bezos Expeditions
Bezos Expeditions

Bezos makes personal investments through his venture capital vehicle, Bezos Expeditions, which has put money into companies like Airbnb, Business Insider, Twitter, Uber, Grail, and General Assembly.

Jeff Bezos’s education history

Bezos graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with a 4.2 grade point average, earning degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest academic honor society in the United States and Tau Beta Pi, the oldest engineering honor society. Bezos was the president of the Princeton chapter of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.

Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife

Bezos met his ex-wife, then MacKenzie Tuttle, while working for D.E. Shaw in 1992. A year later the couple was married and then moved to Seattle, Washington in 1994.

On January 9, 2019, Bezos and his wife announced their divorce on Twitter after 25 years of marriage.

The divorce was finalized on April 4, 2019. Though she could have walked away with much more according to Washington state common law on divorce without a prenuptial agreement, MacKenzie agreed to take 4% in Amazon stock (worth $35.6 billion) and left the remaining 12% to her ex-husband. Bezos also kept all of the couple’s company voting rights.

Jeff Bezos’s children

Jeff and MacKenzie have four children together, three sons and a daughter they adopted from China. The couple’s first son, Prezton Bezos, was born in 2000.

Jeff Bezos’s list of recommended books

jeff bezos reading list

  • “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras
  • “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins
  • “Memos from the Chairman” by Alan C. Greenberg
  • “Sam Walton: Made in America” by Sam Walton
  • “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christensen
  • “The Mythical Man-Month” by Frederick P. Brooks Jr.
  • “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • “Creation: Life and How to Make It” by Steve Grand
  • “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvements” by Eliyahu Goldratt
  • “Data-Driven Marketing: The 15 Metrics Everyone in Marketing Should Know” by Mark Jeffery
  • “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Famous Jeff Bezos quotes

jeff bezos

About success

“I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.”

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”

“In business, what’s dangerous is not to evolve.”

“The common question that gets asked in business is, ‘why?’ That’s a good question, but an equally valid question is, ‘why not?’”

About building a brand

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

“The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.”

“A company shouldn’t get addicted to being shiny, because shiny doesn’t last.”

I think frugality drives innovation just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.

Jeff Bezos car collection

bugatti veyron
Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock

Though Bezos owns a $65 million private jet, he also has recently owned a car that will probably shock surprise you, one that you’ve probably seen driving around your neighborhood at one point in time. As recently as 2013, according to Brad Stone’s book, “The Everything Store,” Bezos drove around in a Honda. In 1999, two years after he became a millionaire, he still drove his 1996 Honda Accord. During the early days of Amazon, Bezos drove packages to the post office in his 1987 Chevy Blazer.

Despite his occasional modest tendencies, Bezos also owns some more high-end luxury vehicles. Here’s the whole list of cars Jeff Bezos has owned, along with the value of each:

Ferrari Pininfarina Sergio ($3 million)

Bugatti Veyron Mansory ($3.4 million)

W Motors Lykan Hyper Sport ($3.4 million)

Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita ($4.8 million )

Lamborghini Veneno ($4.5 million)