/Call for help from Jeff Bezos
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Call for help from Jeff Bezos

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is on track to oust wealth rout bill Bill Gates from the top of the wealth rankings. His online mail order business is doing brilliantly, with its share price more than tripling in the last three years, from 300 to 1000 US dollars. That brought Bezos an increase in his fortune of nearly 22 billion dollars in 2016 alone, which could soon see him move past Bill Gates and become the richest person in the world.

His fortune is now estimated by the New York Times to be more than 82 billion dollars. While Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been investing his fortune (about 89 billion dollars) in various foundations and charitable projects for years, Bezos has so far invested his money mainly in two companies.

The first is his space company Blue Origin, which he founded in 2000 and in which he now plans to invest a billion dollars a year. A comparatively smaller investment was the purchase of the renowned Newspaper “Washington Post” in 2013 for 250 million dollars – in cash.

Video – In 2013, Bezos bought The Washington Post
The purchase was made as a private citizen. (Video: Reuters, 6.8.2013)

Take to Twitter to pick up the ideas of the masses

Now Bezos, too, wants to use his wealth more charitable. How the American wants to do this, however, is obviously not yet clear to him. Bezos is now hoping for help from the Twitter community. He asked them for ideas:

He usually invests his money in long-term projects, writes the Amazon boss. To this end, he cites his three companies Amazon, Blue Origin and The Washington Post, all of which made a contribution to society in their own way. But his charitable strategy should align with the present.

As an example, he mentions “Mary’s Place” in Seattle, which provides emergency shelters for the homeless. Recently, Amazon has been working hard for the organization. In May, Mary’s Place received a key to Amazon’s new headquarters, which will create 4,300 square feet of sleeping places for more than 200 homeless women, children and families. At the same time, a fundraising appeal was launched, for which Amazon promised a million dollars if at least as much was donated. It brought together 1.3 million dollars, with Amazon’s addition of 2.3 million dollars for “Mary’s Place”.

16,000 ideas within 12 hours

Bezos is now looking for new ideas for charity, such as other projects and organizations in which he can invest his money and help immediately. But he also revealed on Twitter that his followers should also tell him if they thought the approach was wrong. He posted the tweet last night and received more than 16,000 responses in 12 hours.

In addition to users who would like to have a bat on themselves, there are ideas with current international relevance (e.g. accommodation for the residents of London’s burnt-out Grenfell Tower) and some suggestions for improving the number of people living in London’s Grenfell Tower. Amazon location city Seattle (public toilets for the homeless, improvement of public transport system or affordable housing), but also thoughts on the importance of planned Amazon services (drones are supposed to provide medical emergency products instead of Amazon items).

Survey

Should the richest use their wealth on a large scale for charity?

Yes, if you have a lot, you should give a lot.
No, everyone should decide for themselves how much they want to donate.

He doesn’t know how Bezos wants to spend his money charitablely, but he will be asked more and more often when he has overtaken Bill Gates in monetary terms. Thanks to his tweet, he may have evaluated some good ideas by then. But he doesn’t have much time for it, because according to the New York Times, it won’t be long before the Amazon founder is the richest man in the world. His fortune has already grown by 17 billion dollars this year, that of Bill Gates, who in 18 of the last 23 years was the absolute richest in the world, “only” by 7 billion.

From Wall Street to your own company in the garage

Jeff Bezos created his wealth with his own version of the “American Dream”. He graduated from the prestigious Princeton University in 1986 as an electrical engineer and computer scientist.

Picture gallery – career in pictures
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Honored in 1999 by “Time” as “Man of the Year”: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Back then, there was no Facebook or Youtube – and Google only existed for a year. Picture: Reuters (18 images)

After graduation, he worked on Wall Street for eight years. In 1993 he married his wife MacKenzie, with which he now has four children. He eventually left the New York financial world voluntarily to start his own business. After reading about the expected growth rates on the Internet, he started the Amazon bookstore in his garage in July 1994, making it a self-made billionaire.

Assets in shares of Amazon and Google

Bezos’s fortune is almost entirely in Amazon shares. He owns 17 percent of the company, or more than 81 million shares. These are currently worth 964 dollars, giving Bezos a virtual fortune of almost 80 billion dollars.

Bezos also has about 3 billion dollars in Google shares, as he was one of the first investors to put 250,000 dollars into the then still unknown company in 1998. Winning factor: 12,000.

Donation promise not signed

In terms of charity, however, the second richest person in the world is somewhat sidelined. He did not sign the “Giving Pledge” initiated by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. With this declaration, the signatories promise that they will spend at least half of their assets on charitable causes. Well-known names such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg or Paypal and Tesla developer Elon Musk have made their promise that Bezos’s signature has so far been missing.

He has not yet set up foundations or charities. He is not active in his family’s foundation, but his parents continue to donate millions to hospitals and cancer research. Since 2012, his wife MacKenzie and he have also donated millions of dollars to local organizations in their hometown, but there is no strategy behind it.

Commitment to freedom of the press

Bezos himself sees his investment in the renowned “Washington Post” as a non-profit act, as it promotes the preservation of a critical and well-researched newspaper. Last month, he also donated a million dollars to a committee in the United States that advocates for press freedom.

Bezos never gave details about the other plans with his assets. Nor the New York Times, which asked him about it several times in recent days. The only response to the requests from New York was his tweet last night asking for ideas. Apparently, the Times concludes, the 53-year-old himself does not yet know exactly where to go with his money. But the path now taken fits with Bezos, who is always looking for new, previously unconsidered approaches by unconventional means.

Profit-oriented rather than charitable organisations

Bezos isn’t saforling the traditional nonprofit path, fundraisers say. He does not simply want to issue cheques for different organisations, but to solve social problems from the ground up. He does not yet know how this is to be done, but he has made several hints that well-positioned for-profit companies could improve the world rather than charitable models. A charity expert in the New York Times therefore trusts him that with a new model he will turn the charitable sector upside down and reinvent it just as he did with Amazon and traditional commerce.

And maybe he’s been working on it for a long time, if you look at his plans for the Blue Origin space program. Back in 1982, Bezos said in an interview during his high school days that he wanted to build hotels, amusement parks and colonies for millions of people in space. The then 18-year-old wanted to evacuate people from Earth and thereby save the planet. Today, the leisure aspect of his youthful plans is the main focus: Bezos wants to make space tourism cheaper and safer. But his basic idea remains as a long-term goal: In a few hundred years, heavy industry will be outsourced into space, so that the earth will be preserved for residential use and light industry, Bezos said in March 2016.

The 53-year-old can no longer experience this vision, once it comes true. One more reason why he is now increasingly looking for projects for the present with which he can make a difference in the here and now.