On Tuesday, Jeff Bezos announced that he is stepping down as Amazon CEO this summer after 27 years of running the e-commerce giant, during which time he built Amazon into a $1.6 trillion company.
He will transition to executive chair of Amazon’s board.
Bezos’ current worth stands at about $190 billion, and his announcement comes at a time of continued explosive growth for the company, which, on Tuesday, reported quarterly sales above $100 billion for the first time.
Though his 2019 divorce reduced his overall worth by some $36 billion or so, Bezos has not been adversely affected.
The founder’s early days – and the square footage of his home and workspace – illuminate the true start-up nature of Amazon.
Bezos attended Princeton and upon graduation began working in the financial industry.
In 1994, after working for a hedge fund, Bezos decided to try things on his own.
He left New York for Seattle. The garage of his rented house in the suburbs there became iconic – the place in which Amazon began.
“The concept for Amazon came to me in 1994. The idea of building an online bookstore with millions of titles — something that simply couldn’t exist in the physical world — was exciting to me,” Bezos said while testifying before Congress in 2020.
The company website went live on July 16, 1995, as an online bookstore. Shortly thereafter, Bezos moved his 11 employees into a small nearby warehouse.
The original house
Built in 1954, the 1,540-square-foot, single-story house didn’t really stand out in the neighborhood, but Bezos’ fame drove up the value.
It received an extreme makeover, being remodeled in 2001 according to a real estate listing. The prime piece of history, the garage, also was redone and, according to a Seattle Times story, no longer looks much like the original Amazon workspace.
In 2019, that house – including the garage – sold for about $1.5 million, about double the price for which it sold 10 years earlier, according to Zillow.
Not surprisingly, the listing included the description “the birthplace of Amazon.”
“Jeff Bezos started Amazon in the garage in the 1990′s!” the John L. Scott Real Estate listing boasted.
From that modest home/office space in 1996, Bezos took Amazon to previously unreachable heights.
From a rented house in the Seattle suburbs to a real estate portfolio worth upward of $500 million, Bezos can feel at home in his numerous properties around the country. Bezos owns millions in New York and Los Angeles properties, as well as in Florida, Texas and more.
The homes: Bezos saw his empire expanding and spent $10 million in 1998 for a 20,600-square-foot, five-bedroom, four-bathroom house on Lake Washington in Medina, Wash., according to Realtor.com. He added to that 5.3-acre property in 2005, reportedly spending $50 million on a neighboring 8,300-square-foot mansion and then used $28 million for renovations on the combined estate in 2010, according to Realtor.com.
And that’s just Seattle.
In New York almost a year ago, Bezos bought a $16 million, three-bedroom condominium on the 20th floor of 212 Fifth Ave. in Manhattan.
He added that to the June 2019 purchase of the 24-story building’s 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th floors.
And that’s just New York.
He bought a $165 million estate – specifically the Warner Estate (the prominent film industry family) — from entertainment executive David Geffen, setting a record at the time for the highest-priced home in Los Angeles, according to the Wall Street Journal, which also has reported Bezos’ ownership of two Beverly Hills-area homes: an estate worth $24.5 million, which he has had since 2007, and the place next door, purchased in 2018 for $12.9 million.
And that’s just L.A.
Bezos isn’t retiring, but he’ll be comfortable in this upcoming chapter of his life, to be sure.
The corporate offices
The Seattle campus, including almost 50 owned and leased buildings near the Space Needle and downtown, is on pace to surpass 13 million square feet over the next few years – a significant increase over the garage and the subsequent small warehouse in the early days.
In fact, the Seattle space is a mere fraction of Amazon’s global presence. In its annual 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2019, Amazon listed its square footage at the end of 2018 at 288 million square feet of property including data centers.
For comparison, Geekwire wrote that, “At that size, Amazon could fill every office building in Seattle more than four times over.”
Amazon’s global reach includes its 2019 opening of a campus in India. The Hyderabad campus will eventually be expanded to cover 68 acres.
And, just last week, the company detailed plans for its northern Virginia headquarters. Phase two of the development in Arlington, Va., will bring three 22-story office buildings and smaller retail buildings.
Amazon said the location would accommodate around 13,000 employees, with room for more. The project is part of Amazon’s more than $2.5 billion, 25,000-employee office campus.
To close the company’s circle of life, Amazon is now strongly invested in Bellevue, where that garage workspace hosted the birth of the company.
The company opened its first office in Bellevue, Wash., a little more than three years ago. The rapid subsequent expansion means the company now controls approximately 3 million square feet of current and future office space in the suburb where it all began.