It would be hard to find someone in the world that hasn’t heard the name “Jeff Bezos.” I mean, he’s only the richest person in modern history and the mind behind Amazon. What started out as a simple online bookstore is now the largest e-retailer in the world. Bezo’s revolutionized the way we shop, the way we spend, and even the way we listen to music or TV.
Amassing a net worth of $108.9 billion isn’t an easy feat. No one would have expected the son of a teen mom with a goofy laugh to create the biggest online retailer in history. Check out how Bezos became the richest person in the world and all the scandals that have come along with that huge accomplishment.
His Mother Was 17 When She Had Him
Jackie Jorgensen gave birth to her son Jeff on January 12, 1964, when she was only a 17-year-old high school student. The father, Ted Jorgensen, was a bike shop owner. The two had a rocky relationship and Jackie left Ted when Jeff was barely two years old.
The two lived in relative poverty in Albuquerque, New Mexico until Jackie eventually remarried a Cuban immigrant named Miguel Bezos. By the time Jeff was four years old, Miguel was the only father he knew.
He Worked At McDonald’s
Everyone has to start somewhere and Bezos got his first paying gig at McDonald’s. Bezos told Fast Company that he worked at a McDonald’s restaurant in during his high school years. He worked the cook line on breakfast shift, which he says taught him the valuable skill of being able to crack eggs with one hand.
Bezos gained something even more valuable from McDonald’s though. He said that the job taught him that customer service was “really hard.”
He Survived A Helicopter Crash
In 2003, Bezos had a brush with death when a helicopter he was a passenger in nearly crashed in Texas. The helicopter’s tail end hit a tree, which caused the chopper to spin out of control and begin to dive toward the ground.
The helicopter ended up crashing into the ground but luckily it wasn’t too bad. Bezos and the other two passengers on board only ended up with minor injuries but when asked about it later, Bezos advised people to “avoid helicopters whenever possible.”
He Never Met His Biological Father
It wasn’t until 2012 that Bezos’ biological father Ted found out who his son truly was. Since Ted had no idea Jackie remarried, he was left assuming Jeff still had the last name Jorgensen. In 2012, a Bezos biographer tracked Ted down and told him the truth.
At first, Ted didn’t believe he was the father of the richest man in the world. Ted tried to reach out and meet Bezos but Jackie told him “not to interfere.” Ted claimed he wanted nothing from Bezos but the meeting still never happened, and Ted died in 2015 without ever meeting his adult son.
He Hand-Delivered Books In Amazon’s Early Days
When Bezos first started Amazon, he had to cut corners and cut costs wherever he could to keep the business afloat. Often times, that meant packing orders and hand-delivering books to customers at the post office.
Other ways Bezos cut costs in the early days was by building his employees’ desks out of discarded doors from Home Depot, and running cables from his parents’ house into their garage for electricity.
The Company Was Originally Called “Cadabra”
When thinking up names for his new company, Bezos flirted with the name “Cadabra,” as in a shortened version of the phrase “abracadabra.” The name did well until people started misinterpreting it as “Cadaver” AKA a dead body.
Luckily, Bezos realized dead bodies weren’t the brand image he wanted to portray and scrapped the name. He tried other names like “Relentless” but eventually, he settled on Amazon, named after the Amazon river.
He Doesn’t Use Alarm Clocks
Apparently, billionaires don’t have time for alarm clocks. Bezos says he wakes up naturally every morning because he believes it’s better to listen to the body’s internal clock. His morning routine also includes eating breakfast every day and never scheduling meetings in the morning.
We’re sure it took him years of hard work before he could magically start listening to his internal alarm clock. One can only dream to have that sort of privilege.
One Of His Early Investments Was Google
As if the fortune he’s made over the years at Amazon isn’t enough, Bezos was also one of the early investors in another little startup you might recognize — Google. Bezos was one of the first to invest in Google when they were still trying to figure out how to maximize internet search results. He thought if Google could maximize search results, it would help his company.
We know he invested $1 million at the start but since Google went public in 2004, he’s been tight-lipped on whether he still owns any stock or how much money he’s made.
He’s One Of The Largest Land Owners In Texas
Bezos can thank his family ties and not his billionaire status as to why he owns so much land in Texas. His grandparents on his maternal side had owned land in Texas for generations. As a kid, Bezos was sent to a 25,000-acre ranch near the city of Cotulla to hang out with his grandfather during the summer.
When his grandparents passed away, Bezos and his mother became the sole owners of the land.
He Started His First Business In High School
Amazon wasn’t Bezos’ first attempt at being an entrepreneur. While he was still in high school, Bezos and his girlfriend started an educational summer camp for elementary school kids from grades four to six. The camp was called DREAM and stood for “Directed REAsoning Methods.”
Each child paid $600 and got to learn about science and literature. Some of the readings for the camp included Gulliver’s Travels and The Lord of the Rings.
He’s A Huge Star Trek Nerd
He might be buff now but Bezos is still a nerd at heart. In 2016, he revealed that he’d been begging Paramount for more than a decade to let him do some sort of Star Trek-related cameo. He sounded super desperate, even saying “Look, I’ll put any amount of makeup on, I’ll be invisible.”
Finally, it happened, and Bezos nabbed a small speaking role in Star Trek Beyond that didn’t end up on the cutting room floor.
Alexa Was Inspired By Star Trek
The Amazon Alexa was Bezos’ first attempt to create a virtual assistant technology that can go right in the consumer’s home. According to Bezos, the Alexa was inspired by the computer in Star Trek, Bezos’ favorite show.
David Limp, a vice-president within Amazon, said the point was to re-create the Star Trek computer. In the show, you could be “anywhere on the starship Enterprise, and you could say the word ‘computer’ and it would wake up…that’s our goal.”
He Coined The “Two-Pizza Team”
Bezos is now well known for being the mind behind the “two-pizza team” phrase. It means the ideal team size should only include as many people who can happily be fed by two pizzas.
For Bezos, that translates into a team of five to seven people. He thinks this is when meetings, communication, and creativity is most efficient. The other version of the “rule” is that you should buy one pizza for every two people, but that sounds much less efficient.
He Married A Coworker
Long before Bezos started Amazon, he worked at a hedge fund in New York City. One of the other employees there was a novelist and creative writer named MacKenzie Tuttle. The two met in 1992 at work, got engaged, and were married only one year later.
It was actually MacKenzie who suggested the two move to Seattle, Washington to start a family. It was there that Bezos would set up shop and found Amazon.
He Had A Raunchy Affair
On the same day that Bezos announced his separation from wife MacKenzie, reports came out that he was in a long-standing relationship with someone named Lauren Sanchez. Sanchez, who is a news anchor and media personality also happen to be married.
Text messages were also leaked that showed a very “raunchy” side of Bezos. Since the affair was leaked, there have been rumors that Amazon stakeholders want it squashed so that things don’t get too messy.
His Divorce Was Set To Be The Most Expensive In History
In January 2019, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos released a joint statement that after 25 years of marriage, the two were getting divorced. The two married before Bezos founded Amazon and most importantly, there was no prenup.
If the couple followed Washington state laws, it would mean all their assets would be split equally down the middle. 50% of Jeff’s fortune would have left MacKenzie the 6th-richest person in the world and made their divorce the most expensive in history. On April 4, 2019, it was announced that Jeff would maintain 75% of the Amazon shares and voting control of the rest.
He’s Been Blackmailed Over The Affair
Not long after news of the affair broke, Bezos published an online essay claiming that the National Enquirer was trying to blackmail him about it. Bezos claimed that he was contacted by a representative that had hacked his phone and was holding private photos against him.
Bezos went against the grain and described all the photos himself in the essay. He then went on to claim the U.S. government may have something to do with the hacking. Considering that Amazon builds secure servers for the C.I.A., it would definitely be difficult to hack Bezos’ phone.
The Affair Cost Him A $20 Million Ad
Only a few weeks after the affair was revealed, Bezos was already feeling repercussions. He was forced to scrap a $20 million Super Bowl advertisement for Blue Origin, the aerospace company he founded, because it was revealed that Sanchez shot the aerial drone footage.
There was no official reason why he pulled the ad. Some speculate he didn’t want to embarrass Sanchez while others claimed he only spent so much on the ad to be close to her.
He’s Got A Soft Spot In His Heart For Space
Bezos was only five years old when he got to watch the televised moon landing of Apollo 11. Like many kids at the time, it sparked the desire to become an astronaut. Of course, we now know that nothing ever came of this dream…or did it?
Bezos founded the company Blue Origin which aims at creating “space tourists” and sending everyday people to space. Bezos has even said that human space travel with Blue Origin is “the most important for that [he’s] doing.”
He’s Building A 10,000 Year Clock
Bezos is all about thinking for the future rather than the past, which is why he decided to take on the task of building a massive clock inside a Texas mountain. The clock will be able to tell time for the next 10,000 years and is meant to be a symbol “for long-term thinking.”
The clock is 500 feet tall. The “second” hand ticks only once a year while the “century hand” advances once every 100 years.
He’s Been Voted The World’s Worst Boss
In 2014, the International Trade Union Confederation named Bezos the “World’s Worst Boss.” The choice was justified by the corporate model he runs with Amazon and the way he treats employees.
Over the years, there have been allegations of verbal abuse by Bezos. Forbes quotes some direct insults Bezos has used against employees, including “Are you lazy or just incompetent?” and “We need to apply some human intelligence to this problem.”
He Owns The Washington Post
In 2013, Bezos made a blockbuster deal and bought out The Washington Post newspaper for $250 million in cash. He announced he did not want to change much about the newspaper but that he wanted to reinvent its connection to digital media.
The first thing Bezos did was lift the pay-wall for those who subscribed to other local newspapers in certain states. In 2016, Three years after the purchase, The Washington Post recorded its first profitable year since 2011.
He Voiced Himself On The Simpsons
You can add Jeff Bezos to the long list of celebrities that have been parodied on The Simpsons and who got to be their own voice. In season 20, Bezos appeared in “The Burns and the Bees.”
In the episode, Mr. Burns goes to ‘Billionaire Camp’ where he meets Bezos, along with Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Mark Cuban. Both Bezos and Cuban got to play themselves for the show.
He Salvaged Parts From Apollo 11
That little boy who watched the Apollo 11 landing went out and found the remains of the aircraft. In July 2013, Bezos used Blue Origin to fund a deep-sea mission to recover a piece of an F-1 rocket engine. Two engines were uncovered from the Atlantic Ocean and NASA was able to confirm they belonged to Apollo 11.
Bezos donated the engine remains to the Seattle Museum of Flight where they can still be seen today.
He Founded Amazon Using Logic
No, Bezos doesn’t just really love books and wanted to make them accessible to all. In 1994, Bezos was working at a hedge fund and realized that internet usage had gone up 2,3000%, but that there were few online sellers.
He looked at internet catalogs to see what wasn’t being sold online yet and found no one had tried selling books online. He chose that as his founding product but always knew he’d expand to different items.
He Dismantled His Crib
Bezos was only three years old when he took a screwdriver and managed to take apart his crib. His mother was still forcing him to sleep in the crib and Bezos was tired of it and wanted a real bed. He hoped that by dismantling it, his mother would finally let him get a bed.
That tinkering gene grew with him over the years. Bezos would buy items from Radio Shack just to reconfigure into “homemade robots” and “devices to keep siblings out of his room.”
He’s An Outstanding Student
While we’re used to hearing of billionaires how dropped out of school, Bezos was a total nerd. He graduated top of class at Miami Palmetto Senior High School and was a National Merit Scholar.
After graduating, he completed a double honors degree in electrical engineering and computer science at Princeton University. To cap it all off, he was an active member of both the Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi societies.
He Passed On Some Pretty Impressive Job Offers
Graduating with honors from Princeton meant Bezos exited university with a slew of respectable job offers. The Amazon founder was offered jobs at Intel, Bell Labs, and Andersen Consulting but turned them all down. Instead, he took a job at a tech startup and was tasked with building an international trade network.
After that, he tried his hand at the banking industry while working at a hedge fund. It wasn’t until he was 30 that he decided to go out on his own.
He’s Trying To Make Delivery Drones
One of Bezos’ crazy ideas is going to be called “Amazon Prime Air.” The service will use drones to deliver products and services to customers around the world. According to Bezos, they have the technology to set up the service and it could be a reality within the next few years.
The only problem is that the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to approve the service because right now, drones can’t be used commercially.
He’s A Supporter Of LGBT Rights
Both Bezos and his former wife MacKenzie have come out as strong supporters of LGBT rights. One of Bezos’ employees, Jennifer Cast, asked for Bezos to donate $100,000 toward Washington United for Marriage, an organization that advocates for same-sex marriage rights. Jeff and MacKenzie instead donated $2.5 million.
He’s also been a known supporter of electoral candidates in the state of Washington who support LGBT causes whether they be Democrat or Republican.