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Jeffrey P. Bezos

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CEO/Chairman of the Board/President/Director

Amazon.Com, Incorporated (AMZN)

Industry: Retail

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Portfolio.com Overview

Jeff Bezos
Photo by: David Ash/Corbis Outline

Last Trade:Change:
Industry:
Retail
Primary executive:
Jeffrey P. Bezos,
Summary:
The Company offers programs and services to consumer, seller and developer customers through its retail websites which enable … View More

Age: 44


WHAT HE DOES
Bezos is the president, chairman, and C.E.O. of Amazon.com, which he founded in 1994.

WHAT HE’S KNOWN FOR

With his trademark khakis and blue shirt and his hedge fund background, Jeff Bezos is no Jack Kerouac, but his 1994 cross-country drive from New York to Seattle to start Amazon—typing the business plan as he went and picking up $300,000 from his parents in Fort Worth, Texas—has become the mythical road odyssey of the dotcom generation. After setting up shop in his garage, he began selling books via the internet, and now is worth $4.4 billion, according to Forbes’ latest billionaire rankings, despite analysts predicting the company’s demise.

Since starting Amazon.com, Bezos has trod close to the line between success and failure; though he is incredibly rich, his company has teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. And despite startup losses that totaled $550 million by November 1999, Time magazine named Bezos “Person of the Year” a month later.

It has often been a roller-coaster ride for weary investors too. The 1997 I.P.O. raised $54 million and the company has been turning a profit since the fourth quarter of 2002, but it has still not wiped out the losses incurred before then.

To get through all of this, Bezos is at once a happy-go-lucky mogul and a notorious micromanager. His laugh is famous, with reporters constantly coming up with new ways to describe his “braying honk.” But he’s also described as an executive who wants to know about everything from contract minutiae to how he is quoted in all Amazon press releases. His obsession with detail extends to shipping. When Bezos observed warehouse workers struggling to build a special box to hold a patio chair, he stopped selling the chair—and every other product that took too long to package. An extremely picky hirer, he asks prospective top-level executives to answer brainteasers (how many windows in San Francisco?). He’s also a risk-taker, but one who aligns himself with established brands. One of his key decisions was to buck conventional wisdom and allow other retailers to sell their wares on Amazon, which means the company now earns a commission for each transaction.

WHERE HE CAME FROM
Born in Albuquerque and raised in Texas and Florida, Bezos excelled as a student from a young age, and graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1986. He landed in the New York tech scene after graduation, first with a global telecom company called Fitel and later with Bankers Trust, where he was promoted to vice president at age 26. He repeated his success at the hedge fund D.E. Shaw, becoming the firm’s youngest senior vice president. While conducting research in 1994, Bezos devised the idea of selling books on the internet. After Shaw passed on investing in his internet project, Bezos packed up and headed west. He now lives near Seattle with his wife, MacKenzie, and their four children.
 
WHAT’S NEXT FOR HIM
Bezos is so involved in Amazon that it’s unlikely he’ll be stepping away from the company anytime soon. But Bezos is starting to indulge in a little billionaire wish fulfillment. He’s using some of his Amazon earnings to fund Blue Origin, a Seattle-based venture that is trying to develop a reusable commercial spacecraft that will take paying passengers on suborbital flights. Bezos was uncharacteristically quiet about the venture until early 2007, when he released video showing a test flight of the Goddard, a rocket prototype of the New Shepard program. The podlike, vertical take-off and landing craft was launched on his Texas ranch. The Blue Origins schedule calls for commercial flights to be offered by 2010, and Bezos will probably be the first one on board.  —Julia Ramey

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