‘Jeff Bezos believes people shouldn’t do jobs software can do’

‘Jeff Bezos believes people shouldn’t do jobs software can do’

By James Dean August 27 2018, 12:01am

On the east bank of Lake Washington, across the water from Seattle, is Medina, a town of about 3,000 people that has become a home for tech billionaires. Among them are Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, and Jeff Bezos.

At Medina Beach park, teenagers chat at picnic tables and dive into the lake from a bobbing pontoon dock. Jet skis and pleasure boats skim across the glistening water as seaplanes buzz overhead. A small army of gardeners, tree surgeons and swimming pool cleaners drift between the lakefront mansions on Evergreen Point Road.

Medina is more country retreat than celebrity hideout. The only hint of the great wealth here comes from the racks of cameras at the town’s entry points, which capture the numberplates of cars as they enter and leave, automatically logging each in a police database.

Mr Bezos owns three homes on Evergreen Point Road. In 1998 he paid $10 million for a 5.3-acre property that includes two five-bedroom mansions. In 2010 he annexed the five-acre property next door, which featured a six-bedroom mansion, for $53 million.

These lakefront mansions are part of Mr Bezos’s enviable property portfolio. He bought the former Textile Museum in Washington DC for $23 million in 2016 and turned it into a ten-bedroom private residence. He has four adjoining apartment units at The Century, an art deco high-rise next to Central Park in New York. He owns two properties in Beverly Hills, California. He also owns 300,000 acres of land in Texas, including a 30,000-acre ranch. In all, Mr Bezos owns about 400,000 acres in the US, putting him 28th on Land Leader’s list of the nation’s top landowners.

Jacklyn Gise Jorgensen was in high school when she gave birth to Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1964. Four years later she married Miguel Bezos, a Cuban immigrant, and Jeffrey Jorgensen became Jeff Bezos. He spent a good part of his youth at his grandparents’ ranch in south Texas, where he learned to rear cattle, fix fences, build barns and operate farm machinery. In the fourth grade, he taught himself to program on the school’s Teletype, which stored data by punching holes in paper tape. He worked as a cook at McDonald’s in high school.

He graduated from Princeton University in 1987 and worked at a financial telecoms start-up for a year before moving into banking. In 1990 he joined DE Shaw, a Wall Street hedge fund that was, unusually for the time, using advanced computing techniques to help pick its investments — something that gave rise to Mr Bezos’s obsession with data and metrics.

In 1993 he married MacKenzie Tuttle, a novelist, with whom he has four children. He founded Amazon in 1994, set up Blue Origin, a space exploration company, in 2000 and bought The Washington Post in 2013.

“The first thing that jumps out is he’s fiercely intelligent,” Brad Stone, a biographer of Mr Bezos, said. “That shows in Amazon’s ability to identify new markets before anyone else does. He’s also relentless. There’s a great ambition there.” In his early years at Amazon, Mr Bezos was “difficult in the same way that Steve Jobs [the founder of Apple] could be,” Stone said. “He was very tough on colleagues who couldn’t meet his high standards. Jeff is still tough but I think his leadership style has evolved.

“He has a mindset that people shouldn’t do jobs that software and technology can do. That mindset has led to Amazon’s amazing success, creating an incredibly efficient organisation that displaces other businesses. But when it comes to jobs, it has a drawback that perhaps we don’t yet fully understand.”


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