Jeff Bezos dropped a bombshell yesterday when he stepped down from his long-held position as CEO of Amazon. He’s at the top of his game right now, having become the world’s richest man for the third year in a row. His personal wealth is estimated at a mind boggling $188 billion. He’s on the verge of becoming the world’s first trillionaire. Then, why this step-down from active CEO duty to the relatively reserved position of Executive Chair for the world’s biggest company?
“As Exec Chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions. I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organizations can have,” Bezos wrote in an email to Amazon employees.
This is a surprising statement coming from Bezos, who is not particularly charitable by nature. In fact, critics have time and again questioned his low contribution to social causes despite his enormous wealth. He’s one of the few multi-billionaires who has not signed The Giving Pledge, where the world’s wealthiest have committed to donating over half their money to philanthropy.
However, Jeff Bezos has been showing signs of introspective change. In 2017, he tweeted his followers for ideas on strategic giving. “I want much of my philanthropic activity to be helping people in the here and now — short term — at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact,” was his explanation.
Bezos has been treading the philanthropic waters carefully. Known for carefully thinking out logistics before taking action in his business, this tycoon is as deliberate in his charitable acts. For example, he announced the Bezos Earth Fund to fight climate change nine months before a single grant was issued to a nonprofit organisation. Two months ago, he gave grants worth $791 million to 16 ecological groups, including the World Resources Institute and the World Wildlife Fund.
Apart from the environment, he seems passionate about children’s education, and scientific research. In the past, he has donated $500,000 to the nonprofit organisation Worldreader which gave children in African countries free access to e-books and e-readers. He donated $15 million to Princeton’s Neuroscience Institute toward creating the Bezos Center for Neural Circuit Dynamics. The centre in New Jersey does research on neurological disorders.
If his farewell email to staffers is any indication, Jeff Bezos will be dividing his free time between strategic philanthropy, climate change action and space technology.