Jeff Bezos sells $1.8B worth of Amazon stock as ownership stake in tech giant drops to 12%

Jeff Bezos sells $1.8B worth of Amazon stock as ownership stake in tech giant drops to 12%

11:38am, 1st August, 2019
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sold more than $1.8 billion of his company’s stock over the past few days, according to a series of . The world’s richest person offloaded more than 900,000 shares for around $1,900 per share, leaving him with a 12 percent stake in the company, worth around $110 billion at Thursday’s market price. That’s down from a 16 percent ownership stake prior to his divorce settlement earlier this year. The purpose of the stock sale wasn’t immediately clear. Bezos previously said that he would to fund Blue Origin, his commercial space venture. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. Bezos also appears to have completed the majority of an expected 20 million share transfer to his ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos. The regulatory filings show that Jeff Bezos’ holdings fell from 78.8 million shares in February to 59.1 million shares before the latest stock sale. As part of the divorce, the Amazon CEO but he retains voting authority for MacKenzie Bezos’ shares, effectively still giving him control of 16 percent of the company’s stock. He also maintains full ownership of The Washington Post and Blue Origin. MacKenzie Bezos now owns 19.7 million shares of Amazon, a $37 billion stake that makes her 23rd richest person in the world, . Even after the transfer and sale, Jeff Bezos remains the world’s wealthiest person. The couple has kept mostly quiet about the financial terms of their divorce. MacKenzie Bezos as part of The Giving Pledge, a philanthropic commitment that hundreds of the world’s wealthiest people have signed, including Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates.
Jeff Bezos moves some earth to break ground on new $1.5B Amazon Prime Air hub near Cincinnati

Jeff Bezos moves some earth to break ground on new $1.5B Amazon Prime Air hub near Cincinnati

5:28pm, 14th May, 2019
(Screen grab via Twitter / @JeffBezos) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hopped into a front-end loader to “move some earth” as the tech giant broke ground Tuesday on a new 3-million-square-foot air cargo hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. The $1.5 billion project, which is scheduled to open in 2021, will reportedly create 2,000 jobs and help “get you your packages faster,” Bezos said in a tweet in which he was shown on video operating heavy machinery to pick up and drop some dirt in front an Amazon Prime Air cargo plane. “If you’re wondering … that’s fun!” Bezos said as he emerged from the vehicle. We’re investing $1.5 billion in our new air hub to get you your packages faster. Three million square feet, and it’s going to create 2,000 jobs. And if you’re guessing that driving a front loader was fun, you’re right! — Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) According to the , the hub will have room to park 100 airplanes and will sit on 900 acres of land leased from the airport for 50 years. “It will be the largest building in this part of the country, not just Boone County,” Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore said in an . reported that Kentucky brought $45 million in incentives to the table to land the deal.
Jeff Bezos challenges retail giants to match (or beat!) Amazon’s $15/hour minimum wage and benefits

Jeff Bezos challenges retail giants to match (or beat!) Amazon’s $15/hour minimum wage and benefits

9:50am, 11th April, 2019
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Amazon last fall for its U.S. workers, after facing pressure from Sen. Bernie Sanders and others to boost compensation in its fulfillment centers and other facilities. Now, Jeff Bezos is turning the tables on Amazon’s retail competitors. “Today I challenge our top retail competitors (you know who you are!) to match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage,” Bezos writes in to Amazon shareholders, . “Do it! Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It’s a kind of competition that will benefit everyone.” RELATED: Although he doesn’t name them specifically, competitors including Walmart and Target are among those . Unlike Amazon, none of those competitors can rely on the profits from a leading public cloud service like Amazon Web Services to boost the bottom line and indirectly cover the cost of the wage hikes. Nor are their businesses completely analogous to Amazon’s business, given the cost of operating physical stores. That said, Amazon is increasingly a brick-and-mortar retailer, as well, and Whole Foods Market employees are among those to whom the new minimum wage applies. Bezos writes, “This wage hike benefitted more than 250,000 Amazon employees, as well as over 100,000 seasonal employees who worked at Amazon sites across the country last holiday. We strongly believe that this will benefit our business as we invest in our employees. But that is not what drove the decision. We had always offered competitive wages. But we decided it was time to lead – to offer wages that went beyond competitive. We did it because it seemed like the right thing to do.” In its annual proxy statement, Amazon reports annual compensation of $28,836 globally for its “median compensated employee” in 2018, up from $28,446 . In 2018, the median annual total compensation for all U.S. full-time Amazon employees was $35,096, including two months of the higher minimum wage, the proxy says. This is a new disclosure. Bezos receives a salary of $81,840 and additional compensation of $1.6 million annually to cover the cost of “security arrangements for Mr. Bezos in addition to security arrangements provided at business facilities and for business travel,” according to the filing. Amazon’s median wage of $28,836 is a ratio of 1-to-58 to Bezos’ compensation of $1.68 million, down from a ratio of . The Amazon founder owns or controls about 16 percent of the company’s outstanding shares, about a quarter of which are owned by his ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos , which gives Jeff Bezos voting control over her shares, as well.
Jeff Bezos uses annual Amazon letter as antitrust antidote: ‘Third-party sellers are kicking our first party butt. Badly.’

Jeff Bezos uses annual Amazon letter as antitrust antidote: ‘Third-party sellers are kicking our first party butt. Badly.’

7:46am, 11th April, 2019
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop) Amazon is getting trounced by third-party sellers on its platform, has weathered some spectacular failures in the process of building its business, and “remains a small player in global retail.” So says Jeff Bezos, believe it or not. Those are three of the takeaways from the Amazon CEO and founder’s , released Thursday morning along with the . It’s an annual tradition that this year seems directed as much to would-be antitrust regulators as it is to the company’s investors. PREVIOUSLY: Bezos starts the letter with a two-decade chronology showing of the share of physical gross merchandise sales on Amazon by third-party sellers, a.k.a. the Amazon Marketplace business that is one of the targets of . That share of sales has risen from 3 percent in 1999 to 58 percent in 2018, Bezos writes in the letter. “To put it bluntly: Third-party sellers are kicking our first party butt. Badly,” he writes. “And it’s a high bar too because our first-party business has grown dramatically over that period, from $1.6 billion in 1999 to $117 billion this past year.” Over those two decades, he writes, third-party sales on Amazon have grown from $100 million to $160 billion, or a 52 percent compound annual growth rate, while eBay’s gross merchandise sales grew from $2.8 billion to $95 billion, or a 20 percent compound growth rate. He asks, “Why did independent sellers do so much better selling on Amazon than they did on eBay? And why were independent sellers able to grow so much faster than Amazon’s own highly organized first-party sales organization? There isn’t one answer, but we do know one extremely important part of the answer: We helped independent sellers compete against our first-party business by investing in and offering them the very best selling tools we could imagine and build.” The letter comes at a time of growing political scrutiny of big tech companies with strong market positions and large amounts of data at their disposal. Warren’s , part of her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, would force big tech companies including Amazon to register as “platform utilities” and prevent them from operating as players on those platforms. It would also unwind previous acquisitions by the companies deemed anti-competitive. In the letter, Bezos doesn’t address antitrust threats explicitly, but he repeatedly positions Amazon as the scrappy, innovative underdog — upending the “expensive, proprietary” commercial database market with new Amazon Web Services offerings; emerging from its Fire Phone failure to find success with Echo and Alexa; and taking on physical retail giants with new inventions. “Amazon today remains a small player in global retail,” he writes. “We represent a low single-digit percentage of the retail market, and there are much larger retailers in every country where we operate. And that’s largely because nearly 90% of retail remains offline, in brick and mortar stores.” Here again, Bezos seems to be laying the groundwork for a pre-emptive antitrust defense. The definition of relevant market is a key consideration in any antitrust case. Amazon seems to want to define its market as global retail, not just e-commerce, where it would be a more dominant player. Addressing the issue of failure, Bezos writes, “As a company grows, everything needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments. If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle. Amazon will be experimenting at the right scale for a company of our size if we occasionally have multibillion-dollar failures.” He adds, “Of course, we won’t undertake such experiments cavalierly. We will work hard to make them good bets, but not all good bets will ultimately pay out. This kind of large-scale risk taking is part of the service we as a large company can provide to our customers and to society. The good news for shareowners is that a single big winning bet can more than cover the cost of many losers.” As an example, he writes, “While the Fire phone was a failure, we were able to take our learnings (as well as the developers) and accelerate our efforts building Echo and Alexa.” Noting that customers have now purchased more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices, he cites this as an example of the “power of wandering” to find a solution — guided by “hunch, gut, intuition, curiosity, and powered by a deep conviction that the prize for customers is big enough that it’s worth being a little messy and tangential to find our way there.” “No customer was asking for Echo,” he says. “This was definitely us wandering. Market research doesn’t help. If you had gone to a customer in 2013 and said ‘Would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?’ I guarantee you they’d have looked at you strangely and said ‘No, thank you.’ ” Bezos later touts the company’s decision last year to , part-time, temporary and seasonal employees, and ratchets up the pressure on without calling them out by name. He writes, “Today I challenge our top retail competitors (you know who you are!) to match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage. Do it! Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It’s a kind of competition that will benefit everyone.” Bezos concludes the letter with a copy of his first shareholder letter, from 1997, and his traditional confirmation, in case there was any doubt: “It remains Day 1.” Read .
Early Amazon investor Tom Alberg to leave board, 23 years after betting on Jeff Bezos’ little startup

Early Amazon investor Tom Alberg to leave board, 23 years after betting on Jeff Bezos’ little startup

6:13am, 11th April, 2019
Madrona Managing Director Tom Alberg (left), one of Amazon’s first investors, speaks with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at a Madrona event in 2015 at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. (Madrona Photo) More than 23 years after betting on a small startup called Amazon.com, , the company’s longest-standing board member, is stepping down. Alberg, 79, was one of Amazon’s earliest investors and part of its first board of directors. He stayed on for more than two decades, as the company transformed itself from an online bookseller to a $900 billion global tech behemoth with more than 600,000 employees. Amazon disclosed in its that Alberg doesn’t plan to stand for re-election at its upcoming annual meeting. Tom Alberg. (Madrona Venture Group Photo) In an interview with GeekWire, Alberg said it was his decision to leave the board next month. “It’s been a fascinating experience, but I’m also a believer that we need to make room for new directors and help provide space for that to happen,” he said. Amazon has added two new board directors this year: former PepsiCo CEO and Starbucks executive . The company will have following Alberg’s departure. “One of our goals is to keep the board reasonably small and not just keep adding people, so I volunteered to help create a rotation,” Alberg said. He’ll continue working as managing director at Madrona Venture Group, the Seattle-based venture capital firm he helped start in 1995. Alberg, a past leader of the Perkins Coie law firm and former McCaw Cellular Communications executive, first met Bezos in 1995, just after the Amazon chief left his New York hedge fund job and launched the online bookseller out of his Bellevue, Wash. garage. Bezos was looking to raise $1 million for his fledgling startup. While others balked at the $6 million valuation, Alberg saw promise in Bezos’ entrepreneurial acumen and the company’s early financials. Bezos and Alberg also shared a belief that the internet would transform business. Alberg, along with Kleiner Perkins chairman John Doerr (), would later join Bezos on Amazon’s new board after the company raised its only venture round before going public in 1997. At the time, Alberg owned 195,000 shares, according to , which would would be worth billions today after stock splits and without dilution. “When it started, I don’t think Jeff or any of us had any idea of what Amazon would grow to,” Alberg said. “We thought selling books on the internet had some real possibilities, but the focus was books. Maybe we could sell CDs, eventually.” Alberg recalled a dinner in early 1997 with Bezos and executives from Barnes & Noble, the market-leading book company at the time that was preparing to launch its own website. “We’re going to bury you — but we also admire you and we’d like to do a deal,” was the message from the Riggio brothers, who ran Barnes & Noble. They pitched a joint site, or even the possibility of acquiring Amazon. “We decided to do it on our own,” recalled Alberg. “Even at that point, I think Jeff saw a real future and didn’t want to sell out prematurely.” That turned out to be a smart decision. Two decades later, Amazon not only dominates the online book industry but also e-commerce more broadly and other industries such as cloud computing and voice technology. And now, in ironic fashion, Amazon is now the company . Amazon’s Day 1 tower, with an Amazon Go store and the Spheres. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Alberg said he’s asked all the time about Amazon’s secret to success. “There really isn’t a secret,” he said. “They talk about it all the time. It’s customer focus, innovation, and thinking about the long term.” What makes Amazon special, he said, is its ability to live those every day. “Jeff has had a really remarkable ability to create a management team that believes in these same principles and sticks to them,” said Alberg, who remains on the board of Seattle-based RFID-maker Impinj and the nonprofit Pacific Science Center. Even during their first conversations back in 1995, Alberg remembers Bezos talking about focusing on the customer and about innovation. Those mantras have been key to Amazon’s success — and Alberg himself has learned from the company’s progress, too. “We talk a lot about making sure our companies and their executives understand what the customer really wants,” he said of the startups within Madrona’s portfolio. Madrona has nearly $1.6 billion under management and a $300 million fund last year, its seventh. Alberg, who grew up in Seattle and attended Ballard High School, said he plans on increasing his level of involvement with civic-related projects and initiatives. He said tech companies “can and should play a big role” in helping support their local community. Amazon has been criticized for its limited engagement in local issues and philanthropy, though the company’s charitable activity in and around Seattle . Alberg pointed out its involvement with organizations such as and . “I think sometimes Amazon and other tech companies don’t get enough credit for what they are already doing,” Alberg said. Alberg expects Amazon to continue investing in Seattle, despite the company opening up an “HQ2” in the Washington D.C. area and . “I don’t think it means there won’t be any growth in Seattle,” he said. “It’s still HQ1.”
Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos finalize divorce; Amazon CEO gets 75% of couple’s stock

Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos finalize divorce; Amazon CEO gets 75% of couple’s stock

12:46pm, 4th April, 2019
Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, center, along with other family members, listen to Ron Gagliardo, senior horticulturalist for Amazon, during the grand opening of The Spheres in Seattle in January 2018. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos have finalized their divorce. The Amazon CEO will receive 75 percent of the couple’s Amazon shares and retain voting authority for remaining shares owned by MacKenzie Bezos. He’ll also maintain full ownership of The Washington Post and Blue Origin. MacKenzie Bezos announced the news via her . Amazon also posted a new Thursday morning outlining terms of their Amazon shares; MacKenzie Bezos will receive 4 percent of Amazon’s stock. A divorce decree is expected to be issued within 90 days. — MacKenzie Bezos (@mackenziebezos) Jeff Bezos in January that the couple would split after 25 years of marriage. He also sent out a tweet Thursday morning. — Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) After the January announcement, Bezos has been related to his relationship with Lauren Sanchez, a former TV anchor turned helicopter pilot, and The National Enquirer, which published text messages sent between Bezos and Sanchez.
Jeff Bezos’ security consultant says Saudi government hacked Amazon CEO’s phone

Jeff Bezos’ security consultant says Saudi government hacked Amazon CEO’s phone

9:17am, 31st March, 2019
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) The Saudi government hacked into Jeff Bezos’ phone and accessed private information, according to new details shared by the Amazon CEO’s security consultant. Gavin de Becker, the man Bezos assigned to investigate how The National Enquirer obtained private text messages sent between him and his alleged mistress Lauren Sanchez, published an opinion piece in Saturday that marks the latest chapter in this ongoing saga. The Enquirer published the text messages two days after Bezos announced in January that he and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, after 25 years of marriage. On Feb. 7, Bezos published a stunning in which the Amazon founder accused the Enquirer and its owner American Media Inc. of extortion. He said AMI had threatened to publish a number of explicit photos of Bezos if he didn’t call off the private investigation led by de Becker and say publicly that AMI’s coverage was not politically motivated. In today’s post, de Becker reveals that “our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information. As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details.” The Daily Beast that the Saudis were targeting Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. This past October, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was . “Some Americans will be surprised to learn that the Saudi government has been very intent on harming Jeff Bezos since last October, when the Post began its relentless coverage of Khashoggi’s murder,” de Becker wrote in his post. De Becker also called out the “well-documented and close relationship” between Saudi Arabia and AMI chairman David Pecker. His investigation is now in the hands of federal officials. Meanwhile, Michael Sanchez, the brother of Lauren Sanchez, who has been accused of sending private messages to the Enquirer, did an interview with that also published on Saturday. We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment and will update this post if we hear back.
Bezos’ security consultant says Saudi government hacked Amazon CEO’s phone

Bezos’ security consultant says Saudi government hacked Amazon CEO’s phone

12:00am, 31st March, 2019
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) The Saudi government hacked into Jeff Bezos’ phone and accessed private information, according to new details shared by the Amazon CEO’s security consultant. Gavin de Becker, the man Bezos assigned to investigate how The National Enquirer obtained private text messages sent between him and his alleged mistress Lauren Sanchez, published an opinion piece in Saturday that marks the latest chapter in this ongoing saga. The Enquirer published the text messages two days after Bezos announced in January that he and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, after 25 years of marriage. On Feb. 7, Bezos published a stunning in which the Amazon founder accused the Enquirer and its owner American Media Inc. of extortion. He said AMI had threatened to publish a number of explicit photos of Bezos if he didn’t call off the private investigation led by de Becker and say publicly that AMI’s coverage was not politically motivated. In today’s post, de Becker reveals that “our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information. As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details.” The Daily Beast about how the Saudis were targeting Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. This past October, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was . “Some Americans will be surprised to learn that the Saudi government has been very intent on harming Jeff Bezos since last October, when the Post began its relentless coverage of Khashoggi’s murder,” de Becker wrote in his post. de Becker also called out the “well-documented and close relationship” between Saudi Arabia and AMI chairman David Pecker. His investigation is now in the hands of federal officials. Meanwhile, Michael Sanchez, the brother of Lauren Sanchez who has been accused of sending private messages to the Enquirer, did an interview with that also published on Saturday. We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment and will update this post if we hear back.
GeekWire Podcast: Bezos and the bots, DNA data storage, and Seattle startups learn to co-exist with Silicon Valley giants

GeekWire Podcast: Bezos and the bots, DNA data storage, and Seattle startups learn to co-exist with Silicon Valley giants

11:31am, 23rd March, 2019
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos prepares to unlieash the robo-dragonfly at this year’s MARS conference. Every year, Amazon and Jeff Bezos hold , for Machine learning, Automation, Robotics and Space, which doubles as an excuse for the Amazon founder to test out the latest in autonomous vehicles, robots and personal aircraft. GeekWire aerospace and science editor Alan Boyle joins us with a rundown. Plus, 15 years after Google started a wave of engineering outposts in the Seattle area, the region’s startups . And we discuss how DNA is inspiring from Microsoft and the University of Washington. Listen to the GeekWire podcast above, or subscribe in your favorite podcast app.
GeekWire Podcast: Bezos and the bots, DNA data storage, and Seattle startups learn to co-exist with Silicon Valley giants

GeekWire Podcast: Bezos and the bots, DNA data storage, and Seattle startups learn to co-exist with Silicon Valley giants

11:31am, 23rd March, 2019
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos prepares to unlieash the robo-dragonfly at this year’s MARS conference. Every year, Amazon and Jeff Bezos hold , for Machine learning, Automation, Robotics and Space, which doubles as an excuse for the Amazon founder to test out the latest in autonomous vehicles, robots and personal aircraft. GeekWire aerospace and science editor Alan Boyle joins us with a rundown. Plus, 15 years after Google started a wave of engineering outposts in the Seattle area, the region’s startups . And we discuss how DNA is inspiring from Microsoft and the University of Washington. Listen to the GeekWire podcast above, or subscribe in your favorite podcast app.