Jeff Bezos' parents invested nearly $250,000 in Amazon — they might be worth $30 billion today
Jeff Bezos is the richest person alive. And, thanks to him, his parents might not be far be behind.
A 1997 SEC filing unearthed by Bloomberg Tuesday finds that Jackie and Mike Bezos invested $245,573 in Amazon in 1995. If they kept their holdings, Bloomberg estimates their shares could be worth $30 billion today.
It’s not known how much stock the couple still owns, if any. But if the publication’s analysis is correct, Jackie and Mike Bezos might be among the top 30 wealthiest people in the world, ahead of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and even Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
The couple might still have a sizable stake in Amazon, according to Bloomberg’s research. Between 2001 and 2016, the couple donated nearly 600,000 shares to the education non-profit they co-founded, the Bezos Family Foundation. If the two have not sold or donated other shares, Bloomberg estimates they could still own around 16 million shares. CNBC Make It reached out to Amazon and the Bezos Family Foundation for comment but did not receive a response before publication.
Bloomberg calculates that even if the couple sold all their shares at the lowest price possible, they could have seen an overall return of $100 million and a return of more than 40,000 percent.
In 1994, Jeff held 60 meetings with family members, friends and prospective investors to get them to each invest around $50,000 apiece in Amazon and help him raise $1 million. Only 20 said yes, a group which included his parents.
The investment was far from a sure bet. Jeff was clear there was a 70 percent chance his parents wouldn’t see that money ever again.
He told them, “I want to come home at dinner for Thanksgiving and I don’t want you to be mad at me.”
His parents weren’t convinced he should leave his “sweet job on Wall Street” — what Mike would later call the vice president role Jeff had worked up to at hedge fund D. E. Shaw.
“Don’t quit your job,” his mother warned. She asked him, “Can you do this on the weekends and nights?”
Running an e-commerce business when most people didn’t have computers was its own gamble. In the 1990s, the web was used by government agencies and universities — not consumers. Mike reportedly asked his stepson, “What’s the internet?”
Still, Jeff saw potential in how quickly web usage was growing — at 2,300 percent a year in the mid-1990s, he explained in a 2010 address at his alma mater. “I’d never seen or heard of anything that grew that fast, and the idea of building an online bookstore with millions of titles — something that simply couldn’t exist in the physical world — was very exciting to me.”
Though his parents studied Jeff’s business plan, they still did not fully grasp what their son had in mind. “All of that went over our heads to a large extent,” Mike was quoted in the book “The Everything Store.” “As corny as it sounds, we were betting on Jeff.”
The couple would invest nearly five times Jeff’s ask. By mid-1999, Bezos’ net worth was already over $9 billion and his parents had become billionaires as well.
Earlier this year, Amazon cracked the top 10 of the Fortune 500 list for the first time in history, alongside corporate behemoths Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, Exxon Mobil and Walmart. Even Warren Buffett now regrets not investing in Amazon when he had the chance.
“We were fortunate enough that we have lived overseas and we have saved a few pennies so we were able to be an angel investor,” Mike said in 2015. “The rest is history.”
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