Amazon.com Inc.’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, the richest man in modern history, on Thursday stepped up his plans for major philanthropic giving by pledging $2 billion to set up the charitable “Bezos Day One Fund.”
Yet Amazon stock has been rising so fast lately that despite the donation, Bezos’ fortune is on track to end this week even higher than where it began. With Amazon stock at $1952, up $7 Thursday, Bezos’ stake is now valued at nearly $158 billion —about $4 billion more than it was last weekend. His wealth rose about $500 million on Thursday alone.
Bezos, who announced his plans on Twitter, said his new charitable plans include setting up new preschools in low-income communities. The schools will be “high-quality, full-scholarship (and) Montessori-inspired,” he said. “We’ll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon AMZN, -0.99% … The child will be the customer.”
The Day One Fund, he said, will also give money to existing non-profits that support homeless families.
“Day One” is a Bezos phrase that refers to his philosophy of how to run a successful organization. Day One organizations stay flexible, make decisions fast, and remain focused on the real goals, he has said. By contrast, “Day Two” is when organizations let sclerosis and institutional habit take over, and start to decline.
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Bezos issued a long public statement alongside his announcement, in which he laid out his broader record of philanthropy—and, by implication, sought to defend himself from his critics, led by President Donald Trump.
He noted that he has previously donated to a variety of causes, including cancer research, marriage equality, college scholarships for immigrant students, and most recently a non-partisan fund to support more military veterans running for public office.
That effort, a $10 million pledge announced earlier this month, may help cushion Bezos from conservative criticisms that the Amazon CEO only supports Democrats.
Bezos also referred to his ownership of the Washington Post as an effort in “support of American democracy.”
Bezos’ announcement comes at an opportune time. Amazon just recently became only the second company in the world, after Apple Inc. AAPL, -1.14% to boast a market value in excess of $1 trillion.
Bezos has been criticized publicly by Trump and his supporters, largely because of the Washington Post’s critical coverage of the administration. Amazon has also been increasingly blamed for gutting malls and main street retailers. His donations also come at the same time as “big tech” and the super-rich are under intense political scrutiny from both sides.
Amazon has been frequently criticized by voices on Wall Street, as well, for Bezos’ determination to target long-term value creation at the expense of short-term profits. During the tech crash of 2000-2 the stock plunged 95%, reaching a low of just $6, and had to deny malicious rumors that it was heading for bankruptcy.
Amazon shares were flat on Thursday, but have gained 70% in 2018, while the S&P 500 SPX, +0.03% has gained 9% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.03% has gained 6%.
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