(Bloomberg) — Jeff Bezos said in an interview published hours before Amazon.com Inc. was reported that it plans to lay off nearly 10,000 people, that he plans to donate the majority of his fortune during his lifetime.
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Bezos, the founder of the e-commerce giant and the fourth richest person in the world, will focus much of his philanthropy on tackling climate change and supporting those who want to unite people, the billionaire told CNN. This is the first time he has made such a commitment.
Bezos, who is worth $123.9 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, said in the interview that he also expects a recession and his advice to small businesses is to cut back on spending.
“The economy isn’t looking great right now,” he said as he sat next to his partner, Lauren Sanchez. “Business is slowing down. You’re seeing layoffs in many sectors of the economy.”
Amazon’s own layoffs will primarily hit employees in corporate and technology positions, and could begin as early as this week, the New York Times reported Monday, unable to identify, citing people familiar with the matter. This will be the largest staff cut in company history.
This isn’t the first time Bezos has made a major philanthropy announcement during a controversy. Last year, he jammed his 11-minute trip to the edge of space, garnering criticism for his priorities, with news of hundreds of millions of dollars in gifts, including $200 million, to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Bezos, 58, has focused more on his philanthropy in recent years, as he took on a much larger public role by buying the Washington Post newspaper and luxury homes in New York, Los Angeles and Hawaii in 2013. A $500 million yacht he commissioned is under construction in the Netherlands and is among those interested in bidding for the NFL’s Washington Commanders, possibly with music mogul Jay-Z as an investor.
Bezos has been on the sidelines of philanthropy for years and has been criticized for not signing the Donation Pledge, a pledge that many of the world’s richest people donate most of their wealth to charities. Instead, he focused on Amazon and financed the for-profit space exploration company Blue Origin.
But Bezos stepped up the pace of giving after leaving his position as CEO of Amazon last year. He turned his attention to climate change with the $10 billion World Fund, which also aims to help restore nature and transform food systems. Bezos said he plans to distribute $10 billion by 2030.
On Saturday, Bezos named Dolly Parton the final recipient of the Courage and Kindness award, giving the music legend $100 million to refer to any charity of her choice. Previously, World Central Kitchen had given similar sums to chef Jose Andres, who fed people in disaster areas, and Van Jones, the founder of Dream.Org.
His ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, has sent more than $14 billion to nonprofits since the two splits in 2019, mostly focusing on smaller charities in the US that are often overlooked by larger donors. In a blog post hours after Bezos’ CNN interview aired, Scott, who signed the Donation Pledge, said he has donated nearly $2 billion to charities in the past seven months.
–With the help of Molly Schuetz and Ben Stupples.
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