Sci-fi obsessive became the wealthiest man on the planet with a £68billion fortune
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is ploughing huge wads of cash into a search for the elixir of life.
Jeff Bezos arrives in Idaho looking like an action movie star suggesting the billionaire has plans to head into space
The sci-fi obsessive — who this week became the wealthiest man on the planet with a $90billion (£68billion) fortune as the company’s stock price soared — is a major funder of a Silicon Valley firm working to preserve youth with science.
Unity Biotechnology is on a controversial mission to make “the debilitating consequences of ageing as uncommon as polio”.
It has raised almost £90million from investors so far.
Unity founder Ned David has admitted many of its backers seek eternal youth, joking: “The Silicon Valley type finds anyone who looks over 40 alarming.”
And Jeff, 53, seems to be turning back the clock himself.
The married father of four made headlines this month when he arrived at the Sun Valley finance conference in Idaho looking more like an action movie star than a nerdy tech entrepreneur.
Bezos founded space travel firm Blue Origin in 2000 spending £765million a year on the venture
He showed off his muscular frame in a tight black polo shirt and gilet, paired with aviator sunglasses.
Brad Stone, author of a book about Amazon and its founder, has suggested the billionaire is bulking up because he dreams of going into space.
Stone said in 2013: “Jeff is in pretty good shape.
“He looked a little pasty after the Nineties and now he’s clearly working out every day.
“I think he’s in astronaut training.”
In 2000 Bezos founded a space travel firm called Blue Origin.
He sells around £765million of Amazon shares a year to fund the venture, according to The New York Times, and says he believes the company could have “paying customers” on short trips into space as soon as next year.
His fascination with the cosmos even led him to finance the recovery of booster rockets from the Apollo space missions from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in 2013.
“I would love to go to space,” he has said.
“But it’s not the thing that’s most important to me.
“I believe we are sitting on the edge of a golden age of space exploration.
Jeff met future wife MacKenzie when they worked at the hedge fund in New York
Bezos was a geeky teen and a lifelong fan of Star Trek
“The thing I would be most proud of, when I’m 80 years old, is if Blue Origin can lower the cost of access to space by such a large amount that there can be a dynamic, entrepreneurial explosion in space, just as we’ve seen over the last 20 years on the internet.”
Jeff got a taste of space exploration last year — in a way — with a cameo role as an alien in movie Star Trek Beyond, ticking off a bucket-list ambition.
He is a lifelong fan of the TV series and modelled Amazon’s Alexa assistant on the know-it-all computer on board the Starship Enterprise.
He recalled last year playing Star Trek games aged ten, saying: “When I was in fourth grade we would play Star Trek almost every day. We made little cardboard phasers and cardboard tricorders . . . good days.”
Now he has bigger toys to play with.
The clock designed to run for 10,000 years in the Amazon founder’s Texas ranch
Inside a mountain on his sprawling Texas ranch workers are building an enormous clock designed to run for 10,000 years.
It is the brainchild of the Long Now Foundation, which promotes long-term thinking.
Bezos has reportedly ploughed in £32million.
British musician Brian Eno wrote the melody that will be heard each time the clock chimes.
Jeff said: “I cannot imagine the future but I care about it.
“I know I am a part of a story that starts long before I can remember and continues long beyond when anyone will remember me.
“I sense I am alive at a time of important change and I feel a responsibility to make sure the change comes out well.
The billionaire bought The Washington Post for £191million
Bezos hops between these properties in a Gulfstream G650ER private jet itself worth around £50million
“I plant my acorns knowing I will never live to harvest the oaks.”
But compared to some mega-earners, his charitable contributions have so far been relatively modest.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates — who Bezos briefly overtook atop the global rich list before Amazon’s stock price returned to Earth — has pledged to give half his vast fortune to charity.
And US investment legend Warren Buffet, another of the world’s richest men, has vowed to give away 99 per cent of his £56billion pile.
Jeff recently gave £26.7million to a cancer charity in Seattle and in May he donated £764,500 to a pressure group for press freedom.
Bezos started a community banana stand – giving away 8,000 per day
He also started an ongoing project to give away bananas to passers-by in Amazon’s home town of Seattle — up to 8,000 a day and 1.7million so far.
Jeff has invested in Airbnb, Uber and Google and in 2013 bought newspaper The Washington Post for £191million.
His property portfolio includes a lake house in Medina, near Seattle, worth £19million and a £17.5million, 27,000 sq ft home in Washington DC, where his neighbours include the Obamas and Ivanka Trump.
He owns a 30,000-acre ranch in West Texas, a £19million mansion in Beverly Hills, California, and three connected apartments in a building overlooking Central Park in New York worth £13million.
Bezos’ £19million sprawling mansion in Los Angeles
The Amazon founder has a £17.5million home in Washington DC
Another property is a £13million apartment in New York
He hops between these properties in a Gulfstream G650ER private jet itself worth around £50million.
His rags to riches story began in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Biological dad Ted Jorgensen started dating his mother Jacklyn Gise in high school.
She was 16 when she became pregnant with Jeff.
Jorgensen belonged to a unicycle troupe and worked at a store where he earned around 95p an hour. They married but it lasted only a year and she wed Cuban Miguel Bezos in 1968.
Jeff was four when Miguel adopted him.
Biographer Brad Stone said: “It is unknowable whether the unusual circumstances of his birth helped to create that entrepreneurial mix of intelligence, ambition and a relentless need to prove himself.
“Two other technology icons, Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison, were adopted, and the experience is thought by some to have given each a powerful motivation to succeed.”
Jorgensen learned of his son’s incredible success in 2012, when Stone tracked him down to a bike repair shop in Arizona.
He told the writer: “I didn’t know where he was, if he had a good job or not, or if he was alive or dead.”
Growing up, Jeff spent summers with his grandparents on their Texas ranch.
Jeff founded Amazon in 1994, selling books from his garage
In 2010 he said: “I helped fix windmills, vaccinate cattle and do other chores. We also watched soap operas every afternoon.”
He was a straight-A student and was accepted early to Princeton, one of the top universities in the US.
He moved to New York, where he met future wife MacKenzie when they worked at the hedge fund DE Shaw.
She asked Jeff to lunch one day and they were engaged three months later.
She said: “My office was next door to his and all day long I listened to that fabulous laugh.
“How could you not fall in love with that laugh?”
She seems to have kept Jeff firmly down-to-earth.
A few years ago the 47-year-old told Vogue that she still drove their four kids to school in a Honda minivan.
Jeff founded Amazon in 1994, selling books from his garage and driving packages to the post office in his battered 1987 Chevy truck.
“I thought maybe one day we would be able to afford a forklift,” he said.
He added music and videos to the site then, after asking customers what else Amazon should sell, he had a “lightbulb” moment.
Jeff said: “One customer said, ‘I wish you sold windshield wipers because I need windshield wipers for my cart’.”
He realised you could sell anything online . . . and now Amazon does.
Many believe it is only a matter of time before Bezos is again the world’s wealthiest man.
With or without the elixir of life, this Trekkie seems certain to live long and prosper.
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