byname of Jeffrey Preston Bezos, (born January 12, 1964, Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.), American entrepreneur who played a key role in the growth of e-commerce as the founder and chief executive officer of Amazon.com, Inc., an online merchant of books and later of a wide variety of products. Under his guidance, Amazon became the largest retailer on the World Wide Web and the model for Internet sales.
Early life and career
While still in high school, Bezos developed the Dream Institute, a centre that promoted creative thinking in young students. After graduating (1986) summa cum laude from Princeton University with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, he undertook a series of jobs before joining the New York investment bank D.E. Shaw & Co. in 1990. Soon named senior vice president—the firm’s youngest—Bezos was in charge of examining the investment possibilities of the Internet. Its enormous potential—Web usage was growing by more than 2,000 percent a year—sparked his entrepreneurial imagination. In 1994 he quit D.E. Shaw and moved to Seattle, Washington, to open a virtual bookstore. Working out of his garage with a handful of employees, Bezos began developing the software for the site. Named after the South American river, Amazon sold its first book in July 1995.
Amazon quickly became the leader in e-commerce. Open 24 hours a day, the site was user-friendly, encouraging browsers to post their own reviews of books and offering discounts, personalized recommendations, and searches for out-of-print books. In June 1998 it began selling CDs, and later that year it added videos. In 1999 Bezos added auctions to the site and invested in other virtual stores. The success of Amazon encouraged other retailers, including major book chains, to establish online stores.
As more companies battled for Internet dollars, Bezos saw the need to diversify, and by 2005 Amazon offered a vast array of products, including consumer electronics, apparel, and hardware. Amazon diversified even further in 2006 by introducing Amazon Web Services (AWS), a cloud-computing service that eventually became the largest such service in the world. In late 2007 Amazon released a new handheld reading device called the Kindle, a digital book reader with wireless Internet connectivity, enabling customers to purchase, download, read, and store a vast selection of books on demand. Amazon announced in 2010 that sales of Kindle books had surpassed those of hardcover books. That same year Amazon moved into making its own television shows and movies with its Amazon Studios division. Amazon’s yearly net sales increased from $510,000 in 1995 to some $600 million in 1998 and from more than $19.1 billion in 2008 to almost $233 billion in 2018. About half of the company’s operating income in 2018 was derived from AWS. Two years later Amazon registered record profits, and its revenue in the fourth quarter that year surpassed $100 billion for the first time. The unprecedented numbers were, in part, caused by a rise in home shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In February 2021 Bezos announced that he would be stepping down as CEO later that year. However, he planned to remain at Amazon as executive chairman.
Aside from Amazon, Bezos founded a spaceflight company, Blue Origin, in 2000. Blue Origin bought a launch site in Texas soon thereafter and planned to introduce a crewed suborbital spacecraft, New Shepard, in 2018 and an orbital launch vehicle, New Glenn, in 2020. Bezos bought The Washington Post and affiliated publications for $250 million in 2013. Bezos’s net worth was calculated in 2018 at $112 billion, making him the richest person in the world.
In 1993 Bezos married Mackenzie Tuttle, whom he had met at D.E. Shaw. The couple announced in January 2019 that they were divorcing, and the following day the National Enquirer printed a story revealing that Bezos was having an affair with another woman. Bezos subsequently launched an investigation into how the tabloid had obtained his private text messages. Then, in February, he posted a lengthy essay online in which he accused officials at American Media Inc. (AMI), the parent company of the Enquirer, of “extortion and bribery” for suggesting that they would release nude photographs of Bezos if he did not stop his inquiry, amid other demands. The Bezos-led investigation later alleged that his lover’s brother had leaked the texts.