Jeff Bezos Cashes Out $2 Billion in Amazon Shares

Jeff Bezos, the founder and executive chairman of Amazon, has sold nearly 12 million shares of the e-commerce and cloud services giant for more than $2 billion, according to regulatory filings. The sale, which took place on Feb. 7 and Feb. 8, is part of a plan that Bezos announced last week to sell up to 50 million shares of Amazon over the next year, with an estimated market value of $8.4 billion.

The plan, which is subject to certain conditions, was adopted on Nov. 8, 2023, and would be completed by Jan. 31, 2025, according to the company’s latest annual report. Bezos said he would use the proceeds from the sale to fund his other ventures, including his space exploration company, Blue Origin, and his philanthropic initiatives, such as the Bezos Earth Fund and the Bezos Day One Fund.

Bezos, who stepped down as Amazon’s chief executive in 2021 and handed over the reins to Andy Jassy, the former head of Amazon Web Services, remains the company’s largest shareholder, with a stake of about 10%. He founded Amazon as an online bookseller in 1994 and transformed it into a global powerhouse that sells everything from groceries to cloud computing services.

The stock sale comes at a time when Amazon is facing increased scrutiny from regulators, lawmakers and activists over its market dominance, labor practices and environmental impact. The company is also facing fierce competition from rivals such as Walmart, Shopify and Alibaba, as well as emerging threats from social media platforms such as Facebook and TikTok, which are expanding into e-commerce.

The sale also puts Bezos in a position to reclaim his title as the world’s richest person, which he lost to Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, in January 2022. According to the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires List, Bezos had a net worth of $191.9 billion as of Feb. 11, 2024, trailing behind Musk’s $199.4 billion and Bernard Arnault’s $218.3 billion. Arnault, the head of the French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, became the first person from France to top the list in April 2023.

However, Bezos briefly surpassed Musk on June 1, 2023, after Musk’s net worth dropped by $20 billion in a single day due to a sharp decline in Tesla’s stock price. Musk regained his lead the next day, after Tesla shares rebounded. Bezos also briefly surpassed Arnault on June 7, 2023, after LVMH shares fell by 6% following a report that the French government was planning to impose a wealth tax on the country’s billionaires. Arnault regained his lead the same day, after LVMH shares recovered.

The rankings of the world’s richest people are based on the value of their public holdings, which fluctuate rapidly depending on the market conditions. The rankings also do not account for the value of their private assets, such as real estate, art and other investments, which are harder to estimate.

Bezos, who is 60 years old, has been known for his frugal lifestyle and his reluctance to spend his fortune on lavish purchases. He owns several properties across the United States, including a 29,000-square-foot mansion in Washington, D.C., a 30,000-acre ranch in Texas, and a $165 million estate in Beverly Hills, California. He also owns a $65 million Gulfstream jet and a $500 million yacht, which is reportedly under construction and will feature a helipad and a support yacht with a landing pad for his Blue Origin rocket.

Bezos has also been investing in media and entertainment, as well as space and science. He bought The Washington Post for $250 million in 2013 and has been supporting its journalism and digital transformation. He also owns a production company, Bezos Expeditions, which has backed films such as Manchester by the Sea and The Salesman. He has also been funding Blue Origin, which aims to make space travel accessible and affordable for ordinary people. He has also donated $200 million to the Smithsonian Institution to renovate the National Air and Space Museum and create a new education center.

Bezos has also been increasing his philanthropic efforts in recent years, after facing criticism for his lack of charitable giving. In 2018, he launched the Bezos Day One Fund, which pledged $2 billion to support homeless families and early childhood education. In 2020, he launched the Bezos Earth Fund, which committed $10 billion to combat climate change. He has also joined the Giving Pledge, a campaign initiated by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, which encourages billionaires to donate at least half of their wealth to charitable causes.

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