Jeff Bezos said for the first time that he will give most of his money to charity



Washington
CNN Business

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos plans to give away most of his $124 billion net worth during his lifetime, saying in an exclusive interview with CNN that he will dedicate most of his fortune to fighting climate change and supporting people who can unite humanity in the face of profound crises. social and political divisions.

While Bezos’ pledge was light on specifics, it’s the first time he’s announced plans to give away much of his money. Critics have criticized Bezos for not signing the Giving Pledge, a pledge made by hundreds of the world’s richest people to donate the majority of their wealth to charity.

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In a sit-down interview with CNN’s Chloe Melas at his home in Washington on Saturday, Bezos, along with his partner, journalist-turned-philanthropist Lauren Sanchez, said the couple has “developed the ability to give this money.”

“Yes, I do,” Bezos said when asked by CNN whether he intended to give away much of his fortune during his lifetime.

Bezos said they agreed to their first interview with Sanchez since they began dating in 2019 to bring attention to the Bezos Courage and Citizenship Award, which was given this year to musician Dolly Parton.

The 20-minute exchange with Bezos and Sanchez covered a wide range of topics, from Bezos’ thoughts on political dialogue and a possible economic downturn to Sanchez’s plan to travel to space with an all-female crew and thoughts on his developing business partnership with Bezos. .

That working relationship was on display Saturday when Bezos and Sánchez announced a $100 million grant to Parton as part of the Courage and Citizenship Award. This is the third such award, following similar grants awarded to chef José Andrés, who spent part of the money preparing meals for Ukrainians, and climate activist and CNN contributor Van Jones.

“When you think about Dolly,” Sanchez said in an interview, “look, everybody’s smiling, right? She just shines. And all she wanted to do was bring light into other people’s worlds. So we couldn’t think of a better person to give Dolly this award and we know he will do amazing things with this award.”

The connecting thread between Courage and Citizenship Award grants, Bezos said, is their ability to bring many people together to solve big problems.

“I’m proud to be a part of what they’re doing for this world,” Bezos told CNN.

Unity, Bezos said, will be needed to fight climate change, a trait he has repeatedly used to blast politicians and social media for fueling division.

But the couple’s biggest challenge may be figuring out how to divvy up Bezos’ vast fortune. Bezos declined to specify a specific percentage or provide specific details about where it would be spent.

Despite being the fourth-richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Bezos has avoided setting a target amount to give away during his lifetime.

Bezos transferred $10 billion over 10 years, or about 8% of his current net worth, to the Bezos Earth Foundation, which Sanchez co-chairs. Its priorities include reducing the carbon footprint of construction-grade cement and steel; forcing financial regulators to consider climate-related risks; development of data and mapping technologies for monitoring carbon emissions; and building large-scale natural, plant-based carbon sinks.

Although Bezos is now Amazon’s ( AMZN ) chief executive rather than CEO — he’ll step down in 2021 — he’s still committed to greening the company. Amazon is one of more than 300 companies that have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint by 2040, in line with the principles of the Paris Climate Agreement, Bezos said, although Amazon’s ( AMZN ) footprint will grow 18% in 2021, amid a pandemic-driven e-commerce boom. Amazon’s ( AMZN ) accounting of its impact on the climate reflects the company’s outsized influence on everything from union debate to antitrust policy, which has attracted a high level of scrutiny from regulators, lawmakers and civil society groups.

Bezos compared his philanthropic strategy to his years-long effort to build the massive engine of e-commerce and cloud computing that has made him one of the world’s most powerful people.

“The hard part is figuring out how to do it in a leveraged way,” he said, adding that even after giving away his billions, he still wants to maximize his return. “It’s not easy. Amazon wasn’t easy to build. It took a lot of hard work, very smart teammates, hard-working teammates, and I find — and I think Lauren finds the same thing — philanthropy, philanthropy is very similar.”

“I think there are a lot of ways you can do things that are ineffective,” he said. “So you have to think about it carefully and you have to have brilliant people in the team.”

Bezos’ methodical approach to giving is in stark contrast to his ex-wife, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, who donated nearly $4 billion to 465 organizations in less than a year.

While Bezos and Sánchez plan for Bezos’s vast fortune, many people of more modest means are bracing for what economists fear could be a prolonged economic downturn.

Bezos last month he tweeted He warned his Twitter followers to “batt the hatches”.

The advice is aimed at both business owners and consumers, with Bezos suggesting in the interview that individuals delay buying big-ticket items they’re expecting, or that companies slow down acquisitions and capital spending.

“Take some risk off the table,” Bezos said. “Keep some dry powder handy…If we get into more serious economic trouble, a little bit of risk reduction can make a difference for that small business. You have to play the odds a bit.”

Many may feel pinched now, he added, but one optimist said he believes the American dream is “more attainable in the future” — predicting that space travel could become widely available within Bezos’ lifetime. public.

Sánchez said the pair were “really great teammates”, although he laughed: “We can be a bit boring”. Bezos smiled and replied, “It’s never boring.”

Sánchez is a trained helicopter pilot who founded Black Ops Aviation, the first female-owned and operated aerial film and production company. In the interview, he said that both of them took turns sitting in the driver’s seat.

Bezos credited his trip to space with helping push the fight against climate change. Now it’s Sanchez’s turn.

Sanchez told CNN that he plans to go into orbit in 2023. While she didn’t directly address who would be joining her — she’s quick to rule out Bezos as a crewmate — she just said, “It’s going to be a great group of women.”

Bezos can add NFL owner to his resume. CNN recently reported that Bezos and Jay-Z are in talks about a potential joint bid for the Washington Commanders.

It’s unclear if the two are still on speaking terms with Dan Snyder and his wife Tanya, the current owners of the NFL team.

But during an interview on Saturday, Melas asked Bezos if the speculation was true.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that noise,” Bezos said with a smile.

“I love football,” Sanchez said with a laugh. I’m going to throw it out there for everybody.”

Bezos added: “I grew up in Houston, Texas and played football as a kid… and it’s my favorite sport… so we’ll have to wait and see.”

— CNN’s Chloe Melas contributed to this report





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