Every Washingtonian became $24,000 poorer in average worth (unscientific estimate) when Jeff Bezos packed his bags and left Seattle recently. Bezos, the world’s second richest man at $161 billion, explained he’s moving to Miami, to be closer to his parents, his fiancé, and his Blue Origin space-exploration rockets. (Blue Origin is headquartered in Kent but the rockets launch at Cape Canaveral.)
Although Bezos is saying adieu, it’s unlikely his absence will be forever. Likely he’ll stop by from time to time to check on the corporate offices at Amazon. Bezos stepped aside in 2021, turning the CEO job over to Andy Jassy, but the founder remains Amazon’s executive chairman.
If not checking in at Amazon, Bezos may return to see the kids he shares – co-parents — with former wife, MacKenzie Scott. Their eldest, Preston, now 23, is the only one of their children (three sons and a daughter) who has been in the limelight.
Bezos’s departure from Seattle comes three decades after he and MacKenzie arrived here from New York City to start an online book seller. With his wife MacKenzie behind the wheel driving, Jeff pecked out a business plan on his computer. They set up shop in the garage at Jeff’s parents’ home in Bellevue. MacKenzie, a budding novelist, went to work on accounts, arranging purchases from (of all places) Barnes & Noble and shipping early orders. The following year, Jeff’s parents — Jacklyn and Miguel “Mike” Bezos — invested $250,000 in the fledgling company.
Most older Seattleites vividly recall the shaky early days of Amazon. A lead story appeared in the Wall Street Journal describing Bezos’ quixotic entry into book sales. Reading that WSJ story left the reader wondering if this guy’s venture would amount to anything more than a one-day wonder. Little did readers dream that it would be the first step towards establishing Jeff’s “everything store.”
Today the Amazon operation has 55,000 employees in Seattle and 10,000 in Bellevue. The South Lake Union campus has mushroomed to 10 million square feet with room for 50 retailers. There can be no question Jeff Bezos was on the money in 1994 when he envisioned online sales as “a rising trend.”
In bidding farewell, the 59-year-old Bezos pointed out he had lived in Seattle more than half his life. He was quoted saying leaving town was emotional and “Seattle will always have a piece of my heart.” He wasn’t asked — nor did he comment — on allegations that the state’s new capital gains tax was a factor in his move. On the other hand, he’s headed for Florida which, like Washington state, has no state income tax.
While the world’s second wealthiest individual is departing, Washington still has other billionaires in residence. Tops will be Microsoft’s Bill Gates who, even after his many philanthropic donations, is worth $111 billion. Gates is followed by Steve Ballmer at $101 billion, and Bezos’ former wife, MacKenzie Scott, who is worth $37.1 billion despite her latest generous round of donations. Scott appears barely able to make a dent in her share of the fortune she and Jeff Bezos once shared.