Following $100 billion in sales for the last three months of 2020, Jeff Bezos is unexpectedly stepping down as Chief Executive of Amazon – a company he founded from his garage in 1994 and grew to a $1.7 trillion behemoth.
Bezos has made clear that “this isn’t about retiring”. In a statement to his one million employees, he said, “I intend to focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives … I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organisations can have.” As the second-richest man alive, his options are as close to unlimited as is humanly possible. So just what will Jeff Bezos do next?
Fortunately, Bezos has revealed some of his plans already. Read-on to discover the ventures he claims to be focusing on as well as a few other likely options.
1) Concentrate on space-travel with Blue Origin
Commercial space-travel has been one of Jeff Bezos’ ambitions since his mid-teens. As the valedictorian of his high-school, an eighteen-year-old Bezos was interviewed by the Miami Herald about his plans for the future. Bezos told the Herald he wanted to “build space hotels, amusement parks and colonies for two million or three million people who would be in orbit.”
While most people had to abandon their youthful spacefaring dreams, Bezos became the owner of Blue Origin. Blue Origin aims to make commercial space travel accessible and affordable with reusable launch vehicles. Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX are currently in direct competition to develop a new lunar lander for NASA’s multibillion dollar mission to return man to the moon.
Bezos has identified Blue Origin as one of the primary ventures he would like to focus on, and his innovation may be exactly what Blue Origin needs to ensure their lander, Blue Moon, is the one that touches down.
2) Expand his philanthropy with the Bezos Day One Fund
The Bezos Day One Fund is a charity set up in 2018 with a mission to address homelessness and improve education for children in low-income US families. At its launch, Bezos gave the organization $2 billion which amounted to approximately 1% of his wealth.
Bezos has identified the Day One Fund as another organization he would like to focus on. Throughout his career, Bezos has been criticized for failing to sufficiently support charitable causes with his vast fortune. Of the five richest people on Earth (who own approximately 35% of the world’s assets), Bezos is the only one not to sign Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge.
The Bezos Day One Fund has also come under criticism both for its inefficiency and intentions. Should Bezos be serious about his motivation to prioritize it, his wealth and input could achieve great things. Time will tell.
3) Save the world with the Bezos Earth Fund
The Day One Fund is not Bezos’ only philanthropic venture. Just last year, Bezos announced the creation of the staggering Bezos Earth Fund – a $10 billion dollar initiative to tackle the existential threat of climate change.
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The announcement was made on Bezos’ Instagram, alongside the following caption:
“I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share. This global initiative will fund scientists, activists, NGOs — any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world. We can save Earth. It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals.”
Again, Bezos has identified the Earth Fund as one of his new priorities. So let’s hope he still has enough sway with Amazon to make more of their packaging recyclable and start negating the 44 million metric tonnes of Carbon they produce each year. With the climate crisis worsening by the day, Bezos’ wealth could make all the difference.
4) Build a media or political empire with The Washington Post
The final organization Bezos stated he wants to focus on is The Washington Post – one of the most highly regarded media outlets in the US. It was the paper that uncovered the Watergate scandal and has had many other world-changing exclusives since. Bezos purchased The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million.
Bezos has rightfully received praise for the way he has run the paper since, being heralded both by its own employees and outsiders for non-interference in the editorial process. Instead, Bezos input was centred around bringing The Washington Post successfully into the digital era.
Shortly after acquiring the paper, Bezos himself said, “I didn’t know anything about the newspaper business […] But I did know something about the internet.” It was a line reminiscent of his famous 1999 quote about the early days of Amazon, “When we first started selling books four years ago, everybody said, ‘Look, you’re just computer guys and you don’t know anything about selling books.’ And that was true.”
With such a powerful media brand under him and a name known across the globe, there is speculation that Bezos could expand his media empire, become more political, and even run for office. With growing bipartisan criticism of billionaire media moguls setting the political agenda, this may not be what the world needs right now. Just ask Michael Bloomberg.
5) Go on a crazed spending spree
Of course, any billionaire has the ever-desirable option of buying a luxury private island. Or in Bezos’ case, 644 luxury private islands. Because thanks to some amusing reporting by The Verge’s deputy-editor Elizabeth Lopatto, we have a pretty good idea of the purchases Bezos could make, if he was so inclined.
Some of Lopatto’s suggestions for Bezos’ $193 billion personal fortune include buying 64,400 Bugatti Chirons, ending hunger in the US seven times, buying 9.6 billion doses of Coronavirus vaccine, buying 20% of America’s F-35 program, or buying 23% of Tesla just to annoy Elon Musk.
While it is unlikely that Bezos will be splashing out all of his cash at once, he may be treating himself to a bit of celebratory shopping. If only there was somewhere he could make his purchases online while the shops are closed.
6) Stay on at Amazon after all
Bezos is not stepping back from his role at Amazon entirely, he remains on board as an executive chairman. How much input he will have is very much left to be seen. According to reports, there are not many employees who believe that Bezos will relinquish his grip on Amazon’s decision-making process.
Bezos himself has said, “As much as I still tap dance into the office, I’m excited about this transition.” Although it appears that even those close to Amazon’s inner workings have their doubts; their CFO Brian Olsavsky told reporters “Jeff is really not going anywhere. It’s more of a restructuring of who’s doing what.”
DoD photo by Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz (Released) – https://www.flickr.com/photos/secdef/26804537356/in/album-72157668014155445/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51387874
Bill Ingalls – http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_2127.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17627362