In a sitdown interview on CNN on Saturday, November 12, Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon, promised to donate the majority of his $124 billion wealth over his lifetime – without however specifying how he might do it. Giving out most of a vast fortune is no simple task, Bezos said.
Moreover, Bezos has never signed onto The Giving Pledge launched by Bill Gates and others, a promise by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to charitable causes. So his announcement came as something of a surprise.
But then came a second surprise just a couple of hours later, and a most unwelcome one: According to reports in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Amazon would follow the example set by Twitter and Meta and start laying off up to 10,000 employees as soon as this week.
In fact, according to LinkedIn posts shared by Amazon employees who claim to have been affected by the cuts, the company began laying off workers on Tuesday already.
The job cuts, which would roll out in waves, reportedly aim to hit teams in the company’s devices organisation, in particular the Alexa unit and cloud gaming division, as well as the retail division and human resources.
But if the cuts are maintained at approximately 10,000, they would represent around 3% of Amazon’s corporate staff and less than 1% of its more than 1.5 million worldwide workforce, which is mainly made up of hourly workers, according to the New York Times.
The explanation for the cuts must be sought in a slowdown in market demand. Earlier this year, Amazon experienced its slowest growth rate in two decades, as a result of rising inflation that changed purchasing patterns and adversely hit its customers.
Yep, the probabilities in this economy tell you to batten down the hatches. https://t.co/SwldRdms5v
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) October 18, 2022
Added to this, the company faced high expenditures inherited from previous investment choices in response to high Covid-induced demands that no longer existed.
During the pandemic, Amazon experienced its most lucrative period in history as customers flocked to online shopping and businesses flocked to its cloud computing services, and has more than doubled its workforce.
According to Bloomberg data, Bezos has accumulated a fortune worth $124 billion, down almost $70 billion this year as a result of a decline in the valuations of technology sector companies.
Meanwhile, Bezos turns to charity
Bezos after selecting Dolly Parton as the third recipient of the Courage and Civility Award made the pledge and gave the country singer $100 million to donate to the charity of her choosing.
“Wow! Did you say one hundred million dollars?” Parton joked at a ceremony on Saturday. “I will do my best to do good things with this money. Thank you, Jeff.”
Last year, after participating in the first manned flight of Blue Origin’s space tourism rocket, Bezos announced the Courage and Civility Award initiative during a news conference. The Award, first distributed by Jeff Bezos in 2021, is an annual award accompanied by $100 million for the receiver to distribute to other non-profit organizations within a ten-year window in which the funds have to be distributed.
The 10-minute trip was the first step in Blue Origin’s suborbital space tourism venture and the biggest in Bezos’s quest to elevate mankind to the status of a space-faring civilisation.
He presented $100 million each to chef José Andrés and political analyst Van Jones, with just the requirement that the money is dispersed within ten years.
“No committees, no bureaucracy,” Bezos declared at the time.
The Amazon founder received harsh criticism for the extravagant nature of his multibillion-dollar commitment to the space race when he made those donations, with many describing them as a hastily orchestrated PR gimmick.
Van Jones revealed to CNN that the contribution had just been made known to him a few days before the announcement.
When asked by CNN if he intended to contribute the majority of his riches, the US billionaire responded as follows: “Yeah, I do. The hard part is figuring out how to do it in a levered way. It’s not easy.”
He added: “I’m finding that . . . philanthropy is not easy. It’s really hard. And there are a bunch of ways that you can do ineffective things, too.”
Unlike a number of his billionaire counterparts, including Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Bezos, who owns a 9.75% stake in Amazon as well as in the Washington Post media organisation, has not endorsed the Giving Pledge.
However, Bezos’s ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, agreed to the Giving Pledge after their divorce in 2019. She states, in her Giving Pledge letter where she pledges to donate the bulk of her wealth, that “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.”
In less than two years, she has donated more than $12 billion to historically Black colleges and universities, women’s rights organisations, and other NGOs, five times more than he has.
Although, Scott stated that she would not divulge how much she funds charities but changed her mind after receiving backlash. She is now working on a website that will include a searchable database of her charity gifts, but it hasn’t seen the light of day as of yet.
Forbes estimates that Bezos has given more than $2.4 billion to charitable groups during his life. Forbes only takes into account donations that have already been made, excluding future support commitments like Bezos’ historic vow to spend $10 billion on environmental protection. $1.54 billion of that commitment, made in 2020, has been spent by the Bezos Earth Fund.
It is true that since leaving his position as CEO of Amazon in July of last year, Bezos has stepped up his charitable endeavours. He has given the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum $200 million over four years, the Obama Foundation $100 million, and charity organisations that help the homeless.
Still, according to Forbes, the third-richest person in the world has donated between 1% and 4.99% of his wealth, which is estimated to be $141.7 billion as of 24 October.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Jeff Bezos at a Blue Origin event in Washington DC in May, 2019. Featured Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Daniel Oberhaus.