After Conquering Earth, Bezos Completes New Mission In Space

Jeff Bezos receives astronaut wings from Blue Origin’s Jeff Ashby, a former Space Shuttle commander, after her flight on Blue Origin’s New Shepard into space on July 20, 2021, in Van Horn, Texas. PHOTO: JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

 

Jeff Bezos fulfilled his longtime dream of going into space Tuesday and potentially opening a door to space tourism — possibly the next mission for the man who built one of Earth’s biggest business empires.

The Amazon founder spent a few minutes in space on a reusable rocket built by his firm Blue Origin as part of a four-member crew, in a small step toward his stated goal of building floating space colonies.

The journey comes just two weeks after he stepped aside as chief executive of Amazon, which grew from a garage startup into one of the world’s most formidable businesses.

Bezos, 57, remains executive chair at the technology and e-commerce colossus he founded 27 years ago. He founded Blue Origin in 2000 and has poured in billions of his money into the venture.

With a fortune worth more than $200 billion, Bezos has been at or near the top of the world’s richest people, even after his divorce settlement.

He owns some 10 percent of Amazon, a behemoth with a presence in dozens of countries and some 1.3 million employees.

But Bezos often points to his humble beginnings: born to a teenage mother in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and adopted at the age of four by his Cuban immigrant stepfather.

Bezos was attracted by computer science when the IT industry was in its infancy and studied engineering at Princeton University.

After graduating, he put his skills to work on Wall Street, whereby 1990 he had risen to be a senior vice president at investment firm D.E. Shaw.

But about four years later he surprised peers by leaving his high-paid position to open an online bookseller called Amazon.com, backed by money from his parents.

– ‘Keep inventing’ –

In his parting letter to Amazon staff, Bezos said the company succeeded by following his mantra: “Keep inventing, and don’t despair when at first the idea looks crazy.”

In public appearances, Bezos often recounts the early days at Amazon, when he packed orders himself and drove boxes to the post office.

Today, Amazon has a market value of some $1.8 trillion. It posted 2020 annual revenues of $386 billion from operations in the e-commerce, cloud computing, groceries, artificial intelligence, streaming media and more.

“Bezos has been a transformational leader… in bookselling, the retail market, cloud computing, and home delivery,” said Darrell West, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation.

“He was a pioneer who introduced many of the conveniences that people take for granted.”

Bezos “had an instinct for the right thing” in finding the next market, said Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.

Kay said Bezos deftly transitioned from books to other merchandise to an online marketplace, and successfully built the cloud infrastructure for the company which became the highly profitable Amazon Web Services.

Amazon outlasted its rivals by forgoing profits in its early years “and reinvesting everything into expanding,” Kay said.

“If you look at the trajectory now, it was all logical,” Kay added. “You can say Bezos has been one of the best business architects of his time.”

Bezos has been fascinated by space since watching the 1969 Apollo moon landing as a child and sees space as important to the future of the planet.

He has spoken about the possibility of humans living in space colonies, drawing ideas from science fiction writers as well as scientists.

“We humans have to go to space if we are going to continue to have a thriving civilization,” Bezos told a 2019 CBS News interview.

“We have become big as a population, as a species, and this planet is relatively small. We see it in things like climate change and pollution and heavy industry. We are in the process of destroying this planet… we have to preserve this planet.”

– Lasting legacy –

Bezos is stepping away from day-to-day Amazon management to spend more time on projects including Blue Origin.

He also owns the Washington Post newspaper and has devoted time and funds to efforts to fight climate change.

While Amazon has boasted of its $15 minimum wage and other benefits, critics say its relentless focus on efficiency and worker surveillance has treated employees like machines.

The Teamsters union recently launched a campaign to organize Amazon employees, claiming its workers “face dehumanizing, unsafe and low-pay jobs, with high turnover and no voice at work.”

Bezos appeared to respond to worker concerns earlier this year when he called for a “better vision” for employees after a bruising battle over a unionization vote in Alabama, which ultimately failed.

He laid out a new goal for the company to be “Earth’s best employer and Earth’s safest place to work,” in his final letter as chief executive.

AFP

World’s Richest Man Jeff Bezos Blasts Into Space

Blue Origin’s New Shepard flies into space from the launch pad carrying Jeff Bezos along with his brother Mark Bezos, 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, and 82-year-old Wally Funk on July 20, 2021, in Van Horn, Texas.  PHOTO: JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

 

The wealthiest man on the planet Jeff Bezos spent a few minutes in space Tuesday on Blue Origin’s first human mission, a key moment for a fledgling industry seeking to make the final frontier accessible to elite tourists.

“A very happy group of people in this capsule,” said Bezos after the spaceship touched down in the west Texas desert following a 10-minute hop to the Karman line and back.

The four-member crew exchanged high-fives and hugged family who came to meet them at the landing site.

Earlier, the New Shepard capsule reached at an altitude of 66.5 miles (107 kilometers), allowing the passengers to experience weightlessness while admiring the curve of the Earth.

This undated photo released by Blue Origin shows (L-R) Mark Bezos, Jeff Bezos, Oliver Daemen, and Wally Funk posing ahead of their July, 20, 2021, space flight in Van Horn, Texas. PHOTO: HANDOUT / BLUE ORIGIN / AFP

 

“It’s dark up here,” said barrier-breaking female aviator Wally Funk, who joined Bezos, his brother, and 18-year-old Dutchman Oliver Daemen, who became the youngest ever astronaut.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson made the voyage on July 11, narrowly beating the Amazon magnate in their battle of the billionaires.

But Blue Origin’s sights were set higher: both in the altitude to which its reusable New Shepard craft would ascend compared to Virgin’s spaceplane, and in its ambitions.

Bezos, 57, founded Blue Origin in 2000 with the goal of one day building floating space colonies with artificial gravity where millions of people will work and live.

Today, the company is developing a heavy-lift orbital rocket called New Glenn and also a Moon lander it is hoping to contract to NASA.

Named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space, the New Shepard suborbital rocket had flown 15 uncrewed flights to put it through its paces and test safety mechanisms.

Lift-off was slightly delayed and came at 1312 GMT from a remote facility in the west Texas desert called Launch Site One, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of the nearest town, Van Horn.

“This might have looked easy today, it was anything but easy,” said Gary Lai, lead designer of New Shepard.

 

– Richest, oldest, youngest –

Notably absent was the still anonymous winner of a $28 million auction for a seat, who had “scheduling conflicts” and will take part in a future flight.

Daemen’s father, the CEO of a private equity firm, was a runner-up in the bidding, allowing his teenage son to become the company’s first paying customer.

After lift-off, New Shepard careened towards space at speeds exceeding 2,300 mph (3700 kph) using a liquid hydrogen-liquid oxygen engine whose only byproduct is water vapor.

The capsule separated from its booster, and when it got high enough, the astronauts unbuckled and experienced space for three to four minutes.

The booster returned autonomously to a landing pad just north of its launch site, while the capsule fell back to Earth with three giant parachutes, and finally a thruster, for a gentle landing.

 

– ‘Read the room’ –

Blue Origin has remained relatively coy about what comes next.

The company says it plans two more flights this year, then “many more” next year.

Analysts say much will hinge on early successes and building a solid safety record.

CEO Bob Smith revealed Sunday that the next launch could take place in September or October, adding “willingness to pay continues to be quite high.”

At the same time, the sector is beginning to face criticism over the optics of super wealthy individuals blasting off to space while Earth faces climate-driven disasters and a coronavirus pandemic.

“Could there be a worse time for two uber-rich rocket owners to take a quick jaunt toward the dark?” wrote Shannon Stirone in an Atlantic piece titled “Space Billionaires, Please Read the Room.

AFP

Amazon Magnate Bezos Ready To Ride His Own Rocket To Space

(FILES) Jeff Bezos sets his sights on a new frontier in space in the coming days after building a gargantuan business empire which has in many ways conquered the Earth. (Photo by – / BLUE ORIGIN / AFP) 

 

The wealthiest man on the planet Jeff Bezos will ride his own rocket to outer space on Tuesday, a key moment for a fledgling industry seeking to make the final frontier accessible to elite tourists.

Blue Origin has planned its first crewed mission, an 11-minute hop from west Texas to beyond the Karman line and back again, to coincide with the 52nd anniversary of the first Moon landing.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson made the voyage on July 11, narrowly beating the Amazon magnate in their battle of the billionaires.

But Bezos, like Branson, insists it wasn’t a contest.

“There’s one person who was the first person in space — his name was Yuri Gagarin — and that happened a long time ago,” he told the TODAY show on NBC on Monday, referencing the Soviet cosmonaut’s 1961 milestone.

“This isn’t a competition, this is about building a road to space so that future generations can do incredible things in space,” he added.

Blue Origin’s sights are also set higher: both in the altitude to which its reusable New Shepard craft will ascend compared to Virgin’s spaceplane, but also in its ambitions.

Bezos, 57, founded Blue Origin in 2000 with the goal of one day building floating space colonies with artificial gravity where millions of people will work and live.

Today, the company is developing a heavy-lift orbital rocket called New Glenn and also a Moon lander it is hoping to contract to NASA.

New Shepard has flown 15 uncrewed flights to put it through its paces and test safety mechanisms, like firing the capsule away from the launchpad if the rocket explodes, or landing it with one less parachute.

“We learned how to make a vehicle safe enough that we’d be willing to put our own loved ones on it, and send them to space,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said at a briefing on Sunday.

Lift-off is at 8:00 am Central Time (1300 GMT) from a remote facility in the west Texas desert called Launch Site One, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of the nearest town, Van Horn.

Weather conditions currently appear favorable and the event will be live streamed on BlueOrigin.com, starting 90 minutes before launch.

 

VAN HORN, TEXAS – JULY 19: David Morales stands near a mural on the side of his building he had painted to honor Jeff Bezos as the billionaire plans to launch his Blue Origin rocket from a launchpad in West Texas on July 19, 2021 in Van Horn, Texas. Mr. Bezos is scheduled to lift off from the launch pad at 8 am local time on Tuesday in the Blue Origin’s suborbital New Shepard rocket in the first human spaceflight for his company. Mr. Bezos is to be joined by his brother Mark Bezos, 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, and 82-year-old Wally Funk. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

 

– Richest, oldest, youngest –
Joining Bezos will be barrier-breaking female aviator Wally Funk, who at 82 is set to be the oldest ever astronaut, and 18-year-old Dutchman Oliver Daemen, who will become the youngest.

Rounding out the quartet is Jeff Bezos’ younger brother and best friend Mark, who directs the Bezos Family Foundation and works as a volunteer firefighter.

Notably absent is the still anonymous winner of a $28 million auction for a seat, who had “scheduling conflicts” and will take part in a future flight.

Daemen’s father, the CEO of a private equity firm, was a runner-up in the bidding, allowing his teenage son to become the company’s first paying customer.

After lift-off, New Shepard will careen towards space at speeds exceeding 2,300 mph (3700 kph) using a liquid hydrogen-liquid oxygen engine whose only byproduct is water vapor.

The capsule separates from its booster, and when it gets high enough, the astronauts unbuckle and experience weightlessness for three to four minutes.

The spacecraft peaks at 65 miles altitude (106 kilometers), allowing the crew members to admire the curvature of the planet, and the inky black of the rest of the universe.

The booster returns autonomously to a landing pad just north of its launch site, while the capsule freefalls back to Earth with three giant parachutes, and finally a thruster, for a gentle landing in the desert.

Funk, who excelled in the Mercury 13 project meant to train women for space, but was denied the opportunity to go because of the sexism of the early space-era, said she planned to make the most of the opportunity.

She told NBC she was looking forward to floating, turning and rolling in near-zero gravity.

– ‘Read the room’ –
Blue Origin has remained relatively coy about what comes next.

The company says it plans two more flights this year, then “many more” next year.

Analysts say much will hinge on early successes and building a solid safety record.

Smith, the CEO, revealed Sunday that the next launch could take place in September or October, adding “willingness to pay continues to be quite high.”

At the same time, the sector is beginning to face criticism over the optics of super wealthy individuals blasting off to space while Earth faces climate-driven disasters and a coronavirus pandemic.

“Could there be a worse time for two uber-rich rocket owners to take a quick jaunt toward the dark?” wrote Shannon Stirone in an Atlantic piece titled “Space Billionaires, Please Read the Room.”

Jeff Bezos Donates Record Breaking $200 Mn To Smithsonian

In this file photo Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos addresses the audience during a keynote session at the Amazon Re:MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 6, 2019. Mark RALSTON / AFP
In this file photo Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos addresses the audience during a keynote session at the Amazon Re:MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 6, 2019. Mark RALSTON / AFP

 

 

Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos will donate $200 million to the Smithsonian, the largest gift in the history of the institute, a statement said Wednesday.

A $70 million portion of the donation will support the renovation of the National Air and Space Museum while $130 million will launch a new education center to be named after the world’s wealthiest person.

The Bezos Learning Center will be housed in a new facility to be constructed on the National Mall, and will feature programs and activities to inspire students to pursue science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

“Since its inception, the Smithsonian has benefited from both federal funding and the generosity of visionary donors,” said Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch.

“This historic gift will help the Smithsonian achieve its goal of reaching every classroom in America by creating a world-class learning center with access and inspiration at its heart.”

“The Smithsonian plays a vital role in igniting the imaginations of our future builders and dreamers,” added Bezos, who is set to fly to space on Blue Origin’s first crewed rocket launch on July 20.

“Every child is born with great potential, and it’s inspiration that unlocks that potential. My love affair with science, invention and space did that for me, and I hope this gift does that for others.”

Bezos, who has an estimated net worth of $212 billion according to Forbes, has a long history of supporting the Smithsonian.

He was a founding donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and has previously contributed to the National Air and Space Museum.

He also has strong ties to the nation’s capital, with a mansion in the upscale Kalorama neighborhood, as well as owning the Washington Post newspaper.

Established in 1846, the Smithsonian Institute is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex.

Named after its founder, the British scientist James Smithson, it is funded through federal appropriations, gifts, its own revenue-generating activities and philanthropy.

In 2000, late real estate tycoon Kenneth Behring donated $80 million to the Smithsonian, then its biggest single gift ever.

As Jeff Bezos Steps Down As Amazon CEO

 In this file photo Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos addresses the audience during a keynote session at the Amazon Re:MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 6, 2019. Mark RALSTON / AFP
In this file photo Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos addresses the audience during a keynote session at the Amazon Re:MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 6, 2019. Mark RALSTON / AFP

 

As he prepares to blast off into a new career stage, Jeff Bezos leaves an enduring legacy after transforming Amazon from a modest online bookseller into one of the world’s most powerful corporations.

Bezos, 57, was set to hand over the job of Amazon chief executive on Monday to Andy Jassy and turn his attention to his private space exploration firm, philanthropy and other endeavors. He will retain a key role, however, as executive chair at the technology and e-commerce colossus he founded 27 years ago.

The transition comes after a spectacular streak for Amazon, which has drawn attention for its innovations.

But the firm has also been vilified over business practices that have crushed competitors and raised concerns over treatment of a workforce of more than one million.

“Bezos has been a transformational leader… in book selling, the retail market, cloud computing and home delivery,” said Darrell West, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation.

“He was a pioneer who introduced many of the conveniences that people take for granted, such as going to an online store, ordering something, and having it delivered to your home the next day. The whole e-commerce sector owes many of its innovations to this individual.”

In public appearances, Bezos often recounts the early days at Amazon, started in his garage, when he packed up orders himself and drove boxes to the post office.

Today, Amazon has a market value of more than $1.7 trillion. It posted 2020 annual revenues of $386 billion from operations in e-commerce, cloud computing, groceries, artificial intelligence, streaming media and more.

‘An instinct’

Bezos “had an instinct for the right thing” in finding the next market, said Roger Kay, analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.

Kay said Bezos deftly transitioned from books to other merchandise to an online marketplace, and successfully built the cloud infrastructure for the company which became the highly profitable Amazon Web Services.

Amazon outlasted its rivals by forgoing profits in its early years “and reinvesting everything into expanding,” Kay said.

“If you look at the trajectory now, it was all logical,” Kay added. “You can say Bezos has been one of the best business architects of his time.”

Bob O’Donnell of Technalysis Research said Bezos “wasn’t the first or the only one, but he took the concept (of e-commerce) and worked to perfect it.”

Amazon was able to outdo rivals because Bezos “recognized the need to build infrastructure,” including the vast network of warehouses, trucks, planes and other logistics for the business, O’Donnell said.

“A lot of other companies didn’t want to spend money on the messy behind-the-scenes work.”

The stunning rise of Amazon has made Bezos into one of the world’s richest people, with a net worth close to $200 billion, even after a divorce settlement which gave part of his stake to his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott.

Bezos will step away from day-to-day Amazon management to spend more time on projects including his space firm Blue Origin — which is set to take him into space later this month.

He owns the Washington Post newspaper and has devoted time and funds to efforts to fight climate change, while also facing criticism after recent reports that he paid no income tax at all some years.

Whither Amazon?

His departure leaves questions about the future of Amazon as it faces a torrent of regulatory scrutiny and criticism from activists.

US lawmakers are considering a measure that would make it easier to break up Amazon, amid concerns that a handful of Big Tech firms have become too dominant, hurting competition in a way that eventually harms consumers.

Amazon was well-positioned during the coronavirus pandemic with its fast delivery of goods and groceries, and boosted its US workforce to more than 800,000.

While the company has boasted of its $15 minimum wage and other benefits, critics say its relentless focus on efficiency and worker surveillance has treated employees like machines.

The Teamsters union recently launched a campaign to organize Amazon employees, claiming its workers “face dehumanizing, unsafe and low-pay jobs, with high turnover and no voice at work.”

Bezos appeared to respond to worker concerns earlier this year when he called for a “better vision” for employees after a bruising battle over a unionization vote in Alabama, which ultimately failed.

He laid out a new goal for the company to be “Earth’s best employer and Earth’s safest place to work,” in his final letter as chief executive.

Yet Amazon is likely to face challenges ahead that will make it difficult to keep its trajectory.

“The backlash against this sector probably will result in stronger government oversight of technology companies,” said West.

Kay said Amazon might become “a victim of its own success” and be forced to break up into two or more firms.

Still, he said that “each of those entities would thrive in its own market; I can easily imagine the sum of the parts being greater than the whole, so it might not hurt shareholders.”

AFP

82-Year-Old Woman To Go Into Space With Bezos – Blue Origin

funk

This undated handout photo obtained on July 1, 2021 courtesy of Blue Origin shows pilot Wally Funk.  Handout / BLUE ORIGIN / AFP

 

Trailblazing woman aviator Wally Funk, 82, will join Jeff Bezos this month on the first crewed spaceflight for the billionaire’s company Blue Origin, the firm announced Thursday.

The trip is 60 years overdue for Funk, who was one of the Mercury 13 — the first women trained to fly to space from 1960-1961, but excluded because of their gender.

On July 20 she will become the oldest person ever to go to space when she takes part in the journey aboard the New Shepard launch vehicle along with Bezos, his brother Mark and one other traveler.

The Bezos brothers and Funk, who was also the National Transportation Safety Board’s first female inspector and a Goodwill ambassador, will be joined by the unnamed winner of an auction who paid $28 million for another seat on the aircraft.

READ ALSOPinterest Bans Weight Loss Ads To Thwart Body Shame

 

Taking off from a desert in western Texas, the New Shepard trip will last 10 minutes, four of which passengers will spend above the Karman line that marks the recognized boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.

Blue Origin’s maiden crewed flight comes in a context of fierce competition in the field of private space exploration — with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic, founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, all jostling for pole position.

AFP

Jeff Bezos To Travel To Space Next Month

In this file photograph taken on October 22, 2019, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos speaks after receiving the 2019 International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Excellence in Industry Award during the 70th International Astronautical Congress at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. PHOTO: MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced Monday he will fly into space next month on the first human flight launched by his Blue Origin rocket firm.

“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother,” Bezos said on his Instagram account.

Blue Origin said Bezos and his brother Mark will travel on the first crewed flight of the company’s New Shepard capsule.

The company is auctioning off the third spot, and that bidding is already at $2.8 million with nearly 6,000 participants from 143 countries.

READ ALSO: Tesla Scraps Plan On Model S Plaid Plus

The trip will last a total of 10 minutes, four of which passengers will spend above the Karman line that marks the recognized boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.

After lift-off, the capsule separates from its booster, then spends four minutes at an altitude exceeding 60 miles (100 kilometers), during which time those on board experience weightlessness and can observe the curvature of Earth from space.

The booster lands autonomously on a pad two miles from the launch site, and the capsule floats back to the surface with three large parachutes that slow it down to about a mile an hour when it lands.

New Shepard has successfully carried out more than a dozen uncrewed test runs launching from its facility in the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas.

The reusable suborbital rocket system was named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space 60 years ago.

The proceeds from the auction will go to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, which aims to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM.

After the auction for the first flight, Blue Origin will offer places for sale.

 

– Billionaire rivalry –

The automated capsules with no pilot have six seats with horizontal backrests, placed next to large portholes, in a futuristic cabin with swish lighting.

Multiple cameras help immortalize the few minutes the tourists experience weightlessness while taking in the Earth’s curvature.

Blue Origin has not yet published its prices but its clientele is expected to mainly be wealthy individuals.

Virgin Galactic, the company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, is also developing a spacecraft capable of sending clients on suborbital flights. Some 600 people have booked flights, costing $200,000 to $250,000.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is planning orbital flights that would cost millions of dollars and send people much further into space.

Bezos announced earlier this year that he is stepping down as chief executive of Amazon to spend more time on other projects including Blue Origin.

He has a very public rivalry with Musk, whose Space X has already begun to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and is a competitor for government space contacts.

AFP

Amazon’s Bezos, Latest Tycoon To Pursue His ‘Passion’

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifies via video conference during the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing on Online Platforms and Market Power in the Rayburn House office Building, July 29, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images/AFP
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifies via video conference during the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing on Online Platforms and Market Power in the Rayburn House office Building, July 29, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

Bill Gates set out to heal the world. His Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen bought sports teams. Ted Turner raced yachts. And Donald Trump went into politics.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, plans to build rockets and save the planet.

Bezos, 57, is the latest in a line of corporate titans who have stepped away from their day jobs to devote themselves to other activities.

Bezos, whose net worth is $197 billion according to Forbes magazine, announced on Tuesday he was resigning as chief executive officer of the online retail giant he launched 27 years ago.

He said he would remain executive chairman of Amazon but would devote more time to “passions” such as his private space firm Blue Origin and the Bezos Earth Fund, to which he made a $10 billion donation last year.

In stepping away from the executive suite, Bezos is following in the footsteps of other tycoons who temporarily — and in some cases permanently — walked away from running the businesses that made them rich.

Gates, 65, and Allen, who died of cancer in 2018 at the age of 65, founded Microsoft in 1975 and built it into the world’s leading computer software company.

Gates stepped down as CEO in 2000 and with his wife launched the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is devoted to improving global health.

Gates, the world’s fourth-richest man according to Forbes, resigned as Microsoft’s chairman in 2014 and left the board in March of last year.

Allen, whose fortune was estimated at $20 billion by Forbes when he died, left Microsoft in 1983 when he suffered a first bout with cancer but remained on the board until 2000.

After leaving the company, Allen bought the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association and Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League.

He was also an active philanthropist, giving away billions of dollars for medical research and other worthy causes.

– Sights on space –
Turner, 82, turned his father’s advertising company into a multi-billion dollar business, launching Cable News Network (CNN) and also buying sports teams — Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA.

But his real passion was sailing.

As the skipper of the yacht “Courageous,” he successfully defended the America’s Cup in 1977 against the Australian challenger.

A number of tycoons have put aside business for politics, most recently former president Trump, a global real estate magnate, and Michael Bloomberg.

Trump, 74, ran for the White House in 2016 while Bloomberg, founder of the financial news company that bears his name, was elected mayor of New York City in 2001.

Bloomberg, 78, was re-elected mayor of the Big Apple in 2005 and in 2009 and made an ill-fated bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

Bezos, who founded his space company Blue Origin in 2000, is not the only tycoon who has expanded his sights beyond Earth’s orbit.

Richard Branson, 70, founder of the Virgin Group, also has a spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic, and is seeking to make space tourism affordable.

Both Bezos and Branson, however, have been left in the dust when it comes to space by another billionaire — South African-born Elon Musk, the world’s second-richest man.

Musk, 49, made his first major fortune when PayPal was sold to eBay in 2002 and has gone on to launch electric car company Tesla and solar power company SolarCity.

In 2002, Musk founded SpaceX.

It has since become the world’s leading private rocket launch company, sending commercial satellites into space and delivering cargo to the International Space Station.

SpaceX became the first private company to launch humans into space last year when it sent two astronauts to the ISS.

Amazon Seeks To Build On Soaring Growth As Bezos Hands Over

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 28, 2011 the Amazon logo is seen on a podium during a press conference in New York.  (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

 

Amazon is changing at the top but stressing continuity after founder Jeff Bezos announced he was handing over the role of chief executive to trusted lieutenant Andy Jassy, capping a spectacular expansion for the 27-year-old technology colossus.

Here are some key questions and answers following Tuesday’s surprise announcement of a change in top management at Amazon.

– What is the significance of the Amazon CEO change? –
While Bezos has been the visionary behind Amazon, the shift is likely to have minimal impact for the moment. Bezos will transition to a role of “executive chairman” which will enable him to be involved in strategic decisions for the e-commerce and tech giant, while new CEO Andy Jassy manages day-to-day-operations.

Shares in Amazon showed little reaction to the CEO news which came as part of a strong fourth quarter earnings report.

“Andy Jassy is going to continue Bezos’ gameplan,” tweeted analyst Gene Munster of Loup Ventures. “Undoubtedly, Bezos will have a heavy hand in the company’s direction as chairman. Overall, a CEO change is a non event.”

The change gives Bezos more room to focus on his other ventures including the Blue Origin space group and the Washington Post, along with his philanthropic activities.

– Why Andy Jassy? –
Jassy, 53,  has been at Amazon since 1997 and led the creation of Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing arm which has become a key driver of revenue and profits for the company. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University.

According to his company profile, Jassy “has delivered more than 90 cloud infrastructure and application services that are used by millions of startup, enterprise, and government customers around the world.”

Analysts say the choice of Jassy underscores Amazon’s commitment to maintaining leadership in the internet cloud, where competition is heating up from the likes of Microsoft, Google and others.

Amazon held about 32 percent of the cloud infrastructure market in the past quarter as Microsoft’s share rose to 20 percent, according to Synergy Research.

“We view this as a major step up in the clouds arms race with crosstown rival Microsoft,” said Dan Ives at Wedbush Securities.

“Jassy is a undisputed cloud titan and has been a key force in getting AWS to the top of the cloud mountaintop over the past decade… Jassy taking over Amazon shows that the cloud stalwart is doubling down on AWS focus which is a smart strategic move given the transformational cloud opportunity on the horizon.”

– What are the challenges ahead for Amazon? –
Amazon has been on a scorching growth streak which has accelerated during the pandemic but also faces a tougher competitive environment and heightened scrutiny from antitrust enforcers around the world.

The e-commerce operations have been surging during the pandemic and “can thrive off the back of its superior logistics network,” said analyst Neil Saunders of GlobalData.

But Amazon “will also need to work hard against rivals which can use their store fleets to satisfy the immediacy and convenience that customers often crave,” the analyst added.

“As Amazon has demonstrated, markets are not static: with determination and effort, new entrants can grow and thrive and take on incumbent players. Others can do the same to Amazon, which is why Bezos’ efforts are still much needed.”

Daniel Newman at Futurum Research said Jassy has huge shoes to fill as Amazon expands into new geographies and sectors.

“Andy Jassy is a very hands-on leader who reviews press releases and keeps a watchful eye over products, events, messaging, and more,” Newman said in a research note.

“Jassy will be monitored similarly to (Apple CEO) Tim Cook. An operator with a great track record, but is he the visionary that can take Amazon’s trajectory to the next level? Based upon what he has done at AWS, there are certainly reasons to believe he has the wherewithal to make this happen.”

 

Bezos To Step Down As CEO Of Amazon This Year

In this file photo taken on September 19, 2019, Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos speaks to the media on the company’s sustainability efforts in Washington,DC. Eric BARADAT / AFP

 

Jeff Bezos said Tuesday he would give up his role as Chief Executive of Amazon later this year as the tech and e-commerce giant reported a surge in profit and revenue in the holiday quarter.

The company said Andy Jassy, who heads Amazon Web Services, would take over as CEO in the third quarter.

The announcement came as Amazon reported a blowout holiday quarter with profits more than doubling to $7.2 billion and revenue jumping 44 per cent to $125.6 billion.

Bezos, who has become the world’s richest person based on his stake in Amazon, said he will transition to the role of executive chair in the third quarter to hand over the CEO role to Jassy.

“Amazon is what it is because of invention,” Bezos said in a statement.

“Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition.”

Jassy joined Amazon as a marketing manager in 1997 and in 2003 founded AWS, the web division of the company which has been one of the most profitable but least-known units of the tech colossus.

Elon Musk Overtakes Bezos To Become World’s Richest Person

 In this file photo Tesla CEO Elon Musk talks to media as he arrives to visit the construction site of the future US electric car giant Tesla in Gruenheide near Berlin on September 3, 2020. Odd ANDERSEN / AFP
In this file photo Tesla CEO Elon Musk talks to media as he arrives to visit the construction site of the future US electric car giant Tesla in Gruenheide near Berlin on September 3, 2020. Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

 

Elon Musk, the outspoken and envelope-pushing founder and CEO of Tesla, overtook Amazon boss Jeff Bezos to become the world’s wealthiest person, US media reported Thursday.

Musk is a major shareholder of the electric car company and has benefited from Tesla’s surging share price over the last year. CNBC estimated his wealth at $185 billion.

The distinction is the latest superlative for the South African-born Musk, who also leads the aerospace venture SpaceX.

READ ALSO: SpaceX Launches Four Astronauts To ISS

Tesla is widely seen as a pacesetter for the car industry as conventional automakers try to catch up in electric autos.

Tesla had a strong 2020 as it ramped up production, broke ground on new factories and reported a series of profitable quarters and was added to the prestigious S&P 500 index.

That enabled shares to rise more than 700 percent during the year, making it more valuable that the world’s top carmakers combined.

Overcoming controversy

Musk has hit a stride after stumbling in 2018, when US securities regulators required the Tesla chief to step down as chairman and pay $20 million to settle charges he defrauded investors with false claims on Twitter in August about a possible bid to take the company private, which was quickly aborted.

Musk also was embroiled in a messy public fight over his comments about a British caver, who had mocked the Tesla CEO’s offer of a mini-submarine to rescue young soccer players trapped in a cave in Thailand in the summer of 2018.

The caver, Vernon Unsworth, sued Musk after the Tesla chief called him “pedo guy” on social media, but a California jury in December 2019 ruled the remark was not defamation.

Musk put these controversies behind him last year as Tesla significantly boosted output at car factories in California and Shanghai and moved ahead to build new factories in Texas and Germany.

Tesla watchers do not think Musk will be able to match the massive valuation surge in 2021, but expect continued progress as the carmaker adds production capacity and pushes the envelope on new technologies, including autonomous autos.

Still, several analysts consider the stock to be overvalued, even if they praise the company.

“Tesla’s performance in 2020 was impressive, but not as impressive as the increase in its shares, which we continue to believe are overvalued,” said a note earlier this week from JPMorgan Chase, which has an “underweight” on the equity.

Shares of Tesla surged 6.3 percent to $803.78 in late morning trading, lifting the company’s market capitalization above $750 billion.

Musk holds about 21 percent of Tesla’s shares, according to a securities filing.

 

AFP

US Lawmakers Pummel Big Tech CEOs At Antitrust Hearing

A photo combination of top tech CEOs who appeared before the US Congress on July 29, 2020.
A photo combination of top tech CEOs who appeared before the US Congress on July 29, 2020.

 

Big Tech executives faced an onslaught of criticism from US lawmakers Wednesday at a high-stakes antitrust hearing which could lay the groundwork for tougher regulation of the major internet platforms.

CEOs Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai of Google were grilled for more than five hours in the unprecedented joint appearance — by video — before a House of Representatives panel investigating market dominance.

While the hearing was called to focus on whether the companies abuse their dominant positions in the market, it veered quickly into topics including political bias, privacy, dealings with China and how platforms deal with misinformation.

“Simply put, they have too much power,” said Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island who chairs the panel conducting a year-long investigation into the business practices of the four companies.

Cicilline said the hearing made clear that the firms “have monopoly power — some need to be broken up, all need to be properly regulated and held accountable.”

Congress has no formal role in antitrust enforcement, but several lawmakers appeared intent on revising US laws to deal with the extraordinary market power and dominance of large technology firms.

“The anti-trust storm clouds appear to be building in the Beltway against Big Tech,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note to investors.

“With today’s hearings setting the stage for a battle royale over the next 6 to 9 months.”

Pandemic strength

Cicilline said the coronavirus outbreak has strengthened the clout of the four, saying: “They are likely to emerge (from the pandemic) stronger and more powerful than ever before.”

Some lawmakers sought to play down the competitive danger of the companies, which have won praise for innovating and introducing new technologies and offering lifelines during virus lockdowns.

“Being big is not inherently bad,” said Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin. “Quite the opposite, in America you should be rewarded for success.”

Abusing platforms?

Lawmakers also put spotlights on problems with tech companies operating platforms relied upon by rivals.

Pichai was pressed regarding whether Google’s ad platform tactics hurt other internet players such as news outlets.

In this file photo taken on October 4, 2017 Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaks about Google’s improvements in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning at a product launch event. Elijah Nouvelage / AFP

 

Apple’s Cook faced tough questioning over the market power of the company’s App Store and its treatment of developers.

“We treat all app developers the same,” Cook said. “We do not retaliate or bully people.”

Bezos, in his first appearance before a congressional committee, defended Amazon’s dealings with third-party sellers after a blistering attack from Cicilline.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifies via video conference during the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing on Online Platforms and Market Power in the Rayburn House office Building, July 29, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images/AFP
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifies via video conference during the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing on Online Platforms and Market Power in the Rayburn House office Building, July 29, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

“We’ve heard from third party sellers again and again during the course of our investigation that Amazon is the only game in town,” the committee chair said to the company founder.

Bezos disputed the characterization while adding, “There are a lot of options for small firms..  I think we are the best one.”

Playing politics

President Donald Trump, who has accused Facebook and Twitter of censoring his remarks and being biased against conservatives, weighed in with a tweet shortly before the hearing.

“If Congress doesn’t bring fairness to Big Tech, which they should have done years ago, I will do it myself with Executive Orders,” Trump said.

Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, said during the hearing: “I’ll just cut to the chase — Big Tech is out to get conservatives. That’s not a suspicion. That’s not a hunch. That’s a fact.”

Democrat Jamie Raskin of Maryland rejected the argument, saying Facebook and other platforms have failed to contain misinformation from Trump and his supporters, including unverified COVID-19 claims.

“If Facebook is out there trying to repress conservative speech they’re doing a terrible job,” Raskin said. “I don’t understand this endless whining” from Republicans.

Moving forward

Some analysts said the hearing could set the stage for revising US antitrust laws, which at present make it difficult for enforcers to target companies simply for being big.

“There was considerable skepticism toward the tech sector as legislators worry about unfair competition and unfair practices,” said Darrell West, director of the center for technology innovation at the Brookings Institution.

“If Democrats gain control in the (November elections), this hearing will serve as a blueprint for enhanced regulatory oversight,” West said.

Michael Carrier, a Rutgers University professor of antitrust law, said that while “the hearing showed that the representatives did their homework” he didn’t think the hearing would lead to quick action.

Avery Gardiner, a former government antitrust lawyer who follows competition for the Center for Democracy & Technology, said the hearing failed to demonstrate specific anticompetitive actions, leaving the matter now to regulatory agencies.