retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times has a long profile of Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos, who for much of the company’s existence was characterized as being “a brilliant but mysterious and coldblooded corporate titan,” preferring to focus on business and avoid the trappings of celebrity, the spotlights of publicity, and the controversies of politics, even as he was creating one of the most powerful and disruptive businesses on the planet.

But that’s changed. The Times writes that while Bezos, who recently has been cited as being the richest man in the history of the planet, “can afford virtually any luxury, obscurity is no longer among them. Amazon, now a behemoth valued at more than $600 billion, has become one of the faces of ‘big tech,’ along with Apple, Alphabet’s Google and Facebook. These companies are facing a backlash. Amazon is under the microscope for what critics say is its corrosive effect on jobs and competition, and Mr. Bezos has become a bête noire for President Trump, who repeatedly singles out him and Amazon for scorn on Twitter.”

Bezos has turned himself into a target because of his eclectic interests and investments. The Times notes that “Bezos’ space start-up, Blue Origin, is … making its efforts more public, giving him another stage. The company is trying to rescue Earth by helping to move pollution-belching heavy industries off the planet.” Bezos bought the Washington Post and has invested in rigorous and ambitious daily journalism at a time when newspapers are resurgent (largely because of coverage of the Trump administration).

And, in a move last week that got a lot of attention, “Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, made public their $33 million donation to a nonprofit that provides college scholarships to so-called Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.” This follows his donation last year to a marriage equality campaign, which also gave him the kind of publicity that he seemed to assiduously avoid in Amazon’s early years.

Some people “who know Mr. Bezos said his new public face was for business expediency,” the Times writes. “Others believe it is a result of personal growth.
But they all said it was clear that Mr. Bezos and Amazon were trying to go beyond his tech persona to show the world his other sides.”

You can read the entire fascinating story here.
KC's View: