The fabulous life of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the second-richest person in the world

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is one of the most powerful figures in tech, with a net worth of roughly $US82 billion.

Today, his “Everything Store” sells more than $US136 billion worth of goods a year.

Here’s how the former hedge funder got his start and became one of the world’s richest people.

Jillian D’Onfro and Eugene Kim contributed to an earlier version of this piece.

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Jeff Bezos' mum, Jackie, was a teenager when she had him in January 1964. She had recently married Cuban immigrant Mike Bezos, who adopted Jeff. Jeff didn't learn that Mike wasn't his real father until he was 10 but says he was more fazed about learning he needed to get glasses than he was about the news.

Bezos showed signs of brilliance from an early age. When he was a toddler, he took apart his crib with a screwdriver, because he wanted to sleep in a real bed.

From ages 4 to 16, Bezos spent summers on his grandparents' ranch in Texas, doing things like repairing windmills and castrating bulls.

Martin Ollman/Getty Images.

Source: The Everything Store

His grandfather, Preston Gise, was a huge inspiration for Bezos and helped kindle his passion for intellectual pursuits. At a commencement address in 2010, Bezos said Gise taught him 'it's harder to be kind than clever.'

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Source: Business Insider

Bezos fell in love with reruns of the original 'Star Trek' and became a fan of later versions too. Early on, he considered naming Amazon MakeItSo.com in reference to a line from Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

In school, Bezos told teachers 'the future of mankind is not on this planet.' As a kid, he wanted to be a space entrepreneur. Now he owns a space-exploration company called Blue Origin.

Blue Origin

Source: Wired

After spending a miserable summer working at McDonald's as a teen, Bezos, together with his girlfriend, started the Dream Institute, a 10-day summer camp for kids. They charged $600 a kid but managed to sign up six students. The 'Lord of the Rings' series made the required reading list.

Bezos eventually went to college at Princeton and majored in computer science. Upon graduation, he turned down job offers from Intel and Bell Labs to join a startup called Fitel.

A young Bezos at an early computer.

Source: The Everything Store

After he quit Fitel, Bezos almost launched with Halsey Minor -- who would later found CNET -- a startup that would deliver news by fax.

In 1994, Bezos read that the web had grown 2,300% in one year. This number astounded him, and he decided he needed to find some way to take advantage of its rapid growth. He made a list of 20 possible products to sell online and decided books were the best option.

And so Amazon was born. MacKenzie and Jeff flew to Texas to borrow a car from his father, and then they drove to Seattle. Bezos was making revenue projections in the passenger seat the whole way, though the couple did stop to watch the sunrise at the Grand Canyon.

In the early days, a bell would ring in the office every time someone made a purchase, and everyone would gather around to see whether anyone knew the customer. It took only a few weeks before it was ringing so often they had to make it stop.

In the first month of its launch, Amazon sold books to people in all 50 states and in 45 different countries. And it continued to grow. Amazon went public on May 15, 1997.

Amazon shares have continued to go up since the crash (until the recent market correction). It has now gone beyond selling books to offering almost everything you can imagine, including appliances, clothing and even cloud computing services.

Shutterstock
An Amazon warehouse.

Bezos is also known for creating a frugal company culture that doesn't offer perks like free food or massages.

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An Amazon office.

In 1998, Bezos became an early investor in Google. He invested $250,000, which was worth about 3.3 million shares when the company went public in 2004. Those would be worth about $2.2 billion today. (Bezos hasn't revealed whether he kept any of his stock after the initial public offering).

What does Bezos do with all his money? In 2012, he donated $2.5 million to defend gay marriage in Washington.

David Ryder/Getty Images

Source: The Washington Post

Bezos has also donated $42 million and part of his land in Texas to the construction of The Clock Of The Long Now, an underground timepiece designed to work for 10,000 years.

In August 2013, Bezos bought The Washington Post for $250 million.

His space company Blue Origin made history last year when it became one of the first commercial companies to successfully launch a reusable rocket.

Bezos' interest in flying has gotten him into trouble in the past. In 2003, Bezos almost died in a helicopter crash in the Texas boondocks while scouting a site for a test-launch facility for Blue Origin.

NTSB
This isn't Bezos' helicopter.

Source: CNN

Bezos is said to own a 5.35-acre estate on Seattle's Lake Washington that includes 182 metres of shoreline.

Stephen Brashear/Getty
An Amazon-branded Boeing 767 freighter, nicknamed Amazon One, flies over Lake Washington.

Source: Curbed Seattle

He also bought a seven-bedroom, $24.5 million mansion in Beverly Hills in 2007. There's a greenhouse, tennis court, pool, and guest house on the property, and it neighbours Tom Cruise's estate.

Bezos' house in Beverly Hills.

Source: Forbes

In January 2017, Bezos bought the Textile Museum, a pair of mansions in Washington, D.C.'s Kalorama neighbourhood. The property sold for $23 million and is the largest in Washington.

Bezos also owns three linked apartments totaling 3,048 square metres in New York City's Century Tower.

iStock

Source: Forbes

Exactly 20 years after going public, Amazon has a market cap of $457 billion. Barclays predicted Amazon could be the first trillion-dollar company.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Source: Markets Insider

In March, Bezos became the world's second-richest person, right behind Bill Gates. With a net worth of more than $81 billion, Bezos is closing in on the number one position.

Getty Images

Source: Markets Insider, Forbes

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