Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the world’s richest person, has cashed in $US1.8 billion ($2.6 billion) worth of Amazon shares, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission submitted last night. Bezos will keep an estimated $US1.4 billion ($2.1 billion) from the sale after taxes, based on calculations by Forbes magazine.
The $2.6 billion coincidentally matches the amount of money Bezos made back in September of 2018 when Amazon’s market cap topped $1 trillion. As Forbes notes, this recent sale, which happened over the course of three days, is probably the Amazon CEO’s largest stock sell-off to date. Bezos still has an estimated net worth of $US115 billion ($169 billion) after the sale.
What’s Bezos going to do with that $2.1 billion in cash? Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday, but Bezos has previously said that he sells about $US1 billion ($1.4 billion) worth of stock every year to fund his space company Blue Origin, so it’s a safe bet that much of the money is going to that. But it remains unclear whether any of that money will be going to charity, since Bezos has been more reluctant than other billionaires to give his fortune away.
Jeff Bezos has been repeatedly criticised for his stinginess and has failed to pledge half of his wealth to philanthropy, as many other high profile American billionaires have done. MacKenzie Bezos almost immediately pledged to give most of her $US36.6 billion ($54 billion) to charity after finalising her divorce with Jeff.
“I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty,” MacKenzie wrote this past May.
In June of 2017, it seemed Jeff Bezos was starting to take charitable giving a bit more seriously and he tweeted out a request for ideas about where to donate his money. But he’s also hinted that he views investments in Blue Origin, the Washington Post, and Amazon as a form of charitable giving.
“I like long-term — it’s a huge lever: Blue Origin, Amazon, Washington Post — all of these are contributing to society and civilisation in their own ways,” Bezos tweeted. “But I’m thinking 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.”
The largest financial commitment that Bezos has made so far is $US2 billion ($3 billion) to the Bezos Day One Fund which gives money to existing non-profits that focus on helping Americans who are experiencing homelessness. The Fund is also giving money to preschools for low income students. But as many people have pointed out, that $3 billion represented just 1.3 per cent of his total wealth at the time, and he keeps making more money hand over fist. Bezos literally can’t give his money away faster than he’s making it.
Jeff Bezos, who’s currently 55 years old, will have to try harder if he wants to do the right thing and hand out his money before he dies (at a ripe old age, no doubt). But we believe in you, Jeff. None of us are getting any younger, and there are a lot of people suffering right now who could use your help. Space dreams are neat and all, but they’re not a form of charitable giving.
Amazon paid $0.00 in U.S. federal taxes on $US11.7 billion ($17 billion) in profits last year.