You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

The fabulous life of Amazon billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos

Business Insider Logo By Jillian D'Onfro of Business Insider | Slide 1 of 39: Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is one of the most powerful figures in tech, with a net worth of roughly $57 billion.Today his "Everything Store" sells over $100 billion worth of goods a year.Unfamiliar with Bezos' story?Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.Jeff Bezos' mom, Jackie, was a teenager when she had him in January 1964. She had recently married Cuban immigrant Mike Bezos, who adopted Jeff. Jeff didn't learn that Mike wasn't his real father until he was 10 but says he was more fazed about learning he needed to get glasses than he was about the news. Screenshot / BioSource. When Bezos was 4, his mother told his biological father, who was a circus performer at one point, to stay out of their lives. When Brad Stone interviewed his father for his book "The Everything Store," the man had no idea who his son had become.Melia Robinson/Business InsiderSource.Bezos showed signs of brilliance from an early age. When he was a toddler, he took apart his crib with a screwdriver because he wanted to sleep in a real bed.Daniel Lobo/FlickrSource.From ages 4 to 16, Bezos spent summers on his grandparents' ranch in Texas, doing farm work like repairing windmills and castrating bulls.Flickr / Big Grey MareSource. His grandfather, Preston Gise, was a huge inspiration for Bezos and helped kindle his passion for intellectual pursuits. At a commencement address in 2010, Bezos said Gise taught him that "it's harder to be kind than clever."YouTube / ScreenshotSource. Bezos fell in love with reruns of the original "Star Trek" and became a fan of the later versions too. Early on, he thought about calling Amazon in reference to a line from Captain Jean-Luc Picard.Star TrekSource. In school, Bezos told teachers "the future of mankind is not on this planet." As a kid, he wanted to be a space entrepreneur. Now he owns a space-exploration company called Blue Origin.Blue OriginSource.After spending a miserable summer working at McDonald's as a teen, Bezos started the Dream Institute, a 10-day summer camp for kids, with his girlfriend. They charged $600 a kid but managed to sign up six students. The "Lord of the Rings" series made the required reading list.Flickr / Jessie Moore Source. He eventually went to college at Princeton and majored in computer science. Upon graduation, he turned down job offers from Intel and Bell Labs to join a startup called Fitel. Screenshot / BioSource. After he quit Fitel, Bezos almost launched a news-by-fax service startup with Halsey Minor, who would later found CNET.Karl Baron/FlickrSource.Instead, he got a job at the hedge fund D.E. Shaw. He became a senior vice president after only four years.DE ShawSource. Meanwhile, Bezos took ballroom dancing classes as part of a scheme to increase his "women flow." Just as Wall Streeters have a process for increasing their "deal flow," Bezos thought about meeting girls analytically.Flickr / Penn State LiveSource. He eventually married MacKenzie Tuttle, a D.E. Shaw research associate, in 1993. She's now a novelist.APSource. In 1994, Bezos read that the web had grown 2,300% in one year. This number astounded him, and he decided he needed to find some way to take advantage of its rapid growth. He made a list of 20 possible product categories to sell online and decided that books were the best option.Paul FalardeauSource. Bezos decided to leave D.E. Shaw even though he had a great job. Screenshot / BIO"When you are in the thick of things, you can get confused by small stuff," he said later. "I knew when I was eighty that I would never, for example, think about why I walked away from my 1994 Wall Street bonus right in the middle of the year at the worst possible time. That kind of thing just isn't something you worry about when you're eighty years old. At the same time, I knew that I might sincerely regret not having participated in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a revolutionizing event. When I thought about it that way … it was incredibly easy to make the decision."His boss at the firm, David E. Shaw, tried to persuade Bezos to stay. But Bezos was already determined to start his own company, and felt he'd rather try and fail at a startup than never try at all.REUTERS/Jason RedmondSource.And so Amazon was born. MacKenzie and Jeff flew to Texas to borrow a car from his father, and then they drove to Seattle. Bezos was making revenue projections in the passenger seat the whole way, though the couple did stop to watch the sunrise at the Grand Moyan Brenn on FlickrSource. Bezos started in a garage with a potbellied stove. He held most of his meetings at the neighborhood Barnes & Noble.Flickr/shawnzrossiSource.In the early days, a bell would ring in the office every time someone made a purchase, and everyone would gather around to see whether anyone knew the customer. It took only a few weeks before it was ringing so often the they had to make it stop.Flickr / Vladimer ShioshviliLearn more about some of Amazon's early employees here. In the first month of its launch, Amazon had already sold books to people in all 50 states and in 45 different countries, and it continued to grow. Amazon went public in 1997.Flickr / DonkeyHoteySource. When the dot-com crash came, analysts called the company "Amazon.bomb." But it weathered the storm and ended up becoming one of the few startups that didn't get wiped out by the dot-com bust.REUTERS/Alkis KonstantinidisAmazon shares have continued to go up since the crash (until the recent market correction). It has now gone beyond selling books to selling almost everything you could imagine, including appliances, clothing, and even cloud computing services.Yahoo financeJeff Bezos was a demanding boss and could explode at employees. Rumor has it he hired a leadership coach to help him tone it down.ReutersBezos is known for banning Powerpoint presentations at Amazon. Instead he requires his staff to turn in six-page papers on their proposals to encourage critical thinking over simplistic bullet points.Thomson ReutersSource.He's also known for creating a frugal company culture that doesn't offer perks like free food and massages.Karyne Levy/Business InsiderIn 1998, Bezos also became an early investor in Google. He invested $250,000, which was about 3.3 million shares when the company went public in 2004 — that would be worth about $2.2 billion today. (He hasn't revealed whether he kept any of his stock after the initial public offering).Bloomberg Game ChangersSource. Today, Bezos is worth about $57 billion.Jeff Vinick/Getty ImagesSource.What does Bezos do with all his money? In 2012, he donated $2.5 million to defend gay marriage in Washington. David Ryder/Getty ImagesSource. Bezos has also donated $42 million and part of his land in Texas to the construction of The Clock Of The Long Now, an underground clock designed to work for 10,000 years. The Long Now Foundation / Facebook Source. In August 2013, Bezos bought The Washington Post for $250 million.Flickr / Mike Licht Source. The Washington Post is growing very fast. It was reported in October that it beat The New York Times in unique visitors for the first time. In November, it recorded 71.6 million uniques, almost a three times growth from two years ago, when Bezos bought the company.REUTERS/Jonathan ErnstHis space company Blue Origin made history last year when it became one of the first commercial companies to successfully launch a reusable rocket.Blue OrginSource. His interest in flying also got him in trouble. In 2003, Bezos almost died in a helicopter crash while scouting a site for the company's test-launch facility in the Texas boondocks.NTSBSource. Last month, he flew his personal jet to take home the Washington Post reporter who was detained by Iran.ReutersSource.In late 2013, Bezos made a splash by announcing on "60 Minutes" that Amazon was working on drones that could deliver orders in 30 minutes.AP/AmazonSource. He owns a house on Lake Washington, as well as a $24.25 million Beverly Hills estate.Dream Homes MagazineSource. Amazon continues to expand its hardware ambitions. It launched its own TV streaming box as well as a smartphone in recent years.Business Insider / Jillian D'OnfroSource. The Fire Phone was a major flop, but Bezos isn't slowing down his hardware initiatives. In an interview with Business Insider last year, he said, "If you look at our device portfolio broadly, our hardware team is doing a great job ... Fire TV, Fire TV Stick — we're having trouble building enough. With the phone, I just ask you to stay tuned."Michael Seto/Business InsiderSource.In fact, Amazon has a lot of other businesses, too. Its fastest-growing business isn't in e-commerce — it's Amazon Web Services, its cloud computing service, which generated almost $8 billion in revenue last year.Thomson ReutersAnd don't expect Bezos to stop experimenting with new ideas anytime soon. "What really matters is, companies that don't continue to experiment, companies that don't embrace failure, they eventually get in a desperate position where the only thing they can do is a Hail Mary bet at the very end of their corporate existence," Bezos said in an interview with Business Insider.Jason Redmond / REUTERSSource.

The remarkable rise of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is one of the most powerful figures in tech, with a net worth of roughly $82 billion.

Today, his "Everything Store" sells more than $136 billion worth of goods a year.

Click ahead to see how the former hedge funder got his start and became one of the world's richest people.

© Getty / Scott Olson

More from Business Insider

Business Insider
Business Insider
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon