SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Jeff Bezos is officially the richest person on the planet thanks to the success of Amazon – but his bold vision extends to space and even time itself.
With Amazon’s share price up nearly 60 per cent during the past year, the personal wealth of the company’s 54-year-old founder has doubled to more than US$110 billion.
Bezos leapt past Bill Gates this week to the top spot on an annual Forbes magazine list of billionaires, relegating the Microsoft co-founder to second place with a net worth of about $90 billion.
He has gone on record with a formula for success that includes taking bold bets, riding change and rebounding from setbacks.
“You need to be nimble and robust so you need to be able to take a punch and you also need to be quick and innovative and do new things at a higher speed, that’s the best defence against the future,” Bezos said in an interview published in Vanity Fair magazine last year.
“You have to always be leaning into the future. If you’re leaning away from the future, the future is gonna win, every time.”
Bezos’s penchant for experimenting reportedly dates to a young age – with one widely-recounted story telling that he tried to dismantle his own crib as a toddler.
Bezos was enchanted by computer science when the IT industry was in its infancy and he studied engineering at Princeton University.
After graduating, he put his skills to work on Wall Street, where by 1990 he had risen to be a senior vice president at investment firm DE Shaw.
He surprised peers by leaving his high-paid position about four years later to open an online bookseller called Amazon.com, which according to legend was started in a garage.
Jeffrey Preston Bezos went from being a boy with a love for how things work to being the man who built Amazon.com into an Internet powerhouse.
Amazon grew to dominate commerce and become a formidable contender in cloud computing and artificial intelligence with its digital assistant Alexa.
The Seattle-based company was worth about $750 billion based on the price of its shares on Thursday.
Bezos has such a proven track record for shaking up the business sectors he enters that he has been dubbed “disruptor-in-chief”.
Like his company, Bezos has also transformed with time, shaving his head and bulking up his body with exercise. The results were immortalised in a series of photos taken at a conference last year.
And, he seems to be growing more comfortable being in the public eye, according to recent portrait piece in The New York Times.
A fan of science fiction and in particular the British author Iain Banks, Bezos has passions other than Amazon.
Bezos called Banks “a huge personal favourite” in a tweet last month while announcing that Amazon Prime video service was working on a television series based on one of the author’s novels.
Bezos has invested some $42 million in the building a 150-metre-tall clock designed to keep time for 10,000 years. Built inside a mountain in Texas, the clock will be powered by geothermal energy.
“Humans are now technologically advanced enough that we can create not only extraordinary wonders but also civilisation-scale problems,” Bezos said in a blog post devoted to the clock project.
“We’re likely to need more long-term thinking.”
Bezos is also behind private space exploration operation Blue Origin, into which he usually invests money from selling Amazon shares.
Blue Origin has outlined plans to build a spaceship and lunar lander capable of delivering cargo to the moon, perhaps to support colonies there.
With the purchase of The Washington Post in 2013, the Internet entrepreneur added a prestigious news operation to his investments.