SEATTLE • Billionaire Jeff Bezos rubbed elbows this month with actors Chris Hemsworth and Halle Berry and different Hollywood celebrities at an after-party for the Golden Globes.
Last month, he walked the purple carpet, together with actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, at a screening of The Post in Washington.
Last Friday, Mr Bezos and his spouse, MacKenzie, made public their US$33-million (S$44-million) donation to a non-profit organisation that gives school scholarships to “Dreamers”, younger immigrants delivered to the United States illegally as youngsters. In October, he acquired an award for a donation to a wedding equality marketing campaign.
Ms Jennifer Cast, an Amazon govt who solicited the donation from him, mentioned on the event that they might have donated anonymously to the marketing campaign.
“But just as critical as the money was Jeff’s offer to let us publicly acknowledge their gifts,” she mentioned.
“By allowing us to take their donation public,” she added, “the world quickly knew that Jeff Bezos supported marriage equality.”
The appearances and actions are a brand new search for Mr Bezos.
As he was shaping Amazon into one of many world’s most useful firms, he developed a status as an excellent however mysterious and cold-blooded company titan.
He most popular to hunker down in Amazon’s hometown – Seattle – at the very least partly as a result of he thought it was higher for Amazon’s rising business, largely avoiding public causes and the black-tie circuit.
But whereas Mr Bezos – who, at 53, is the world’s richest particular person, with a web price of greater than US$100 billion – can afford nearly any luxurious, obscurity is now not amongst them.
Amazon, a behemoth valued at greater than US$600 billion, has turn out to be one of many faces of “big tech”, together with Apple, Alphabet’s Google and Facebook. These firms are going through a backlash.
Amazon is beneath the microscope for what critics say is its corrosive impact on jobs and competitors, and Mr Bezos has turn out to be a bete noire for US President Donald Trump, who repeatedly singles out him and Amazon for scorn on Twitter.
“People are starting to get scared of Amazon,” mentioned Mr Steve Case, a co-founder of America Online, who lately began an funding fund targeted on start-ups in under-served areas, with Mr Bezos amongst its contributors.
“If Jeff continues to hang out in Seattle, he’s going to get a lot more incoming. Even for just defence reasons, he has to now play offence.”
Mr Bezos’ portfolio of different ventures has put him additional into the highlight.
Four years in the past, he purchased The Washington Post for US$250 million, jump-starting a renaissance of the paper.
In 2016, he purchased a US$23-million home in Washington, one of many metropolis’s costliest, which is present process intensive renovations to make it an acceptable occasion spot for the town’s political class.
Nearby neighbours embrace former president Barack Obama and his household, and Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner.
Mr Bezos’ house start-up, Blue Origin, can be making its efforts extra public, giving him one other stage. The company is attempting to rescue Earth by serving to to maneuver pollution-belching heavy industries off the planet.
“He’s getting thanked at the Golden Globes and targeted by presidential tweet tantrums – not even Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had that kind of pop culture currency,” mentioned Professor Margaret O’Mara of historical past on the University of Washington, who organised a museum exhibition in Seattle endowed by Mr Bezos.
Interviews with greater than 30 individuals who know Mr Bezos, most of whom declined to be recognized to guard their relationships with him, revealed his consciousness of the rising opposition to Amazon and his rising consolation with being within the public eye.
Mr Bezos, they mentioned, accepts the likelihood of larger government scrutiny of Amazon. He has suggested Amazon executives to conduct themselves in order that they’ll go any authorized or regulatory check.
Investor Warren Buffett, who has recognized Mr Bezos because the 1990s, mentioned the cautionary story of Microsoft, which confronted a landmark anti-trust case by the government that decade, should loom in his thoughts.
Microsoft, by far probably the most dominant expertise company on the time, lost its footing after the case, opening an surprising alternative for rivals.
“You’re going to get a lot of scrutiny if you’re disrupting other people’s livelihoods,” Mr Buffett mentioned.
Mr Bezos’ extra public-facing work was abetted by a administration change practically two years in the past at Amazon, when he put Mr Jeff Wilke accountable for its shopper business and Mr Andy Jassy accountable for cloud computing.
That freed him as much as commit extra time to The Post and Blue Origin, although he stays deeply engaged at Amazon, dedicating most of his time to initiatives which might be two to 4 years from hitting the market.
He has additionally pushed for utilizing publicity to the company’s benefit.
In September, he masterminded the company’s splashy seek for a spot to find a second headquarters. Amazon highlighted the roles it deliberate to create with the transfer – as much as 50,000 in complete – and spurred a horde of cities, from Dallas to Boston, to use.
In the longer term, meaning Mr Bezos will most certainly be a extra acquainted presence in Washington.
He visits Washington about 10 occasions a 12 months, dropping in at The Post for boards, discussions with engineers and meals with journalists.
In the capital’s stately Kalorama neighbourhood, simply off Massachusetts Avenue’s row of embassies, renovations are continuing on his home – two mixed properties that was the town’s Textile Museum.
He plans to host salon-style dinners on the home, drawing inspiration from the celebrated dinner events thrown by Ms Katharine Graham, the previous writer of The Post, for the town’s movers and shakers from each events.
He is understood for asking his dinner visitors to stay to a single dialog subject at a time to maintain individuals from splintering off into non-public facet discussions.
Ms Sally Quinn, a long-time Post author and an arbiter of the town’s social mores, mentioned she had no firsthand data of Mr Bezos’ plans for his home.
But she praised the concept of making an attempt to carry collectively visitors from throughout the political spectrum.
“There’s no one who is doing that kind of thing in Washington right now,” mentioned Ms Quinn, who ran into Mr Bezos lately on the screening of The Post.
“It would be like a throwback to the old days.”
She mentioned: “I think Jeff is the only person who could do that.”